Yesterday’s post, New York Times Rhetorically Asks “Is Leonard Cohen the New Secular Saint of Montreal?”, calls to mind Leonard Cohen’s thoughts on saintliness.
What is a saint? A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility is. I think it has something to do with the energy of love. Contact with this energy results in the exercise of a kind of balance in the chaos of existence. A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago. I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory. He rides the drifts like an escaped ski. His course is a caress of the hill. His track is a drawing of the snow in a moment of its particular arrangement with wind and rock. Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance. Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape.1
Do you consider yourself either religious or mystical?
I think I went through a saintly phase where I was consciously trying to model myself on what I thought a saint was. I made a lot of people very unhappy and I made myself very unhappy.2
When there’s a complete wipe-out, there’s a renewal. In that book [Beautiful Losers] I tried to wrestle with all the deities that are extant now – the idea of saintliness, purity, pop, McLuhanism, evil, the irrational – all the gods we set up for ourselves.3
- Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen [↩]
- An Interview with Leonard Cohen conducted by Michael Harris. Duel, Winter 1969. [↩]
- Leonard Cohen quoted in “After the Wipe-Out, A Renewal” by Sandra Diwa, published in The Ubyssey (the student newspaper of the University of British Columbia), February 3, 1967. [↩]