Leonard Cohen Explains “The difference between the philosopher, the priest and the politician and what I do.”

Did you ever harbour hopes for the way the world would progress, that things might get better, more dignified, that we were looking to a brighter and better tomorrow?

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When you’re on the frontline in the battle for your own survival there are times when the fighting subsides and you can come up with some reflections one way or the other. But then the snipers start and the grenades are launched and you wonder how you’re going to acquit yourself honourably of the responsibilities that you’re engaged. That’s the difference between the philosopher, the priest and the politician and what I do. I don’t have to win a vote, I don’t have to establish a system that doesn’t contradict itself, I don’t have to have a clear vision, I don’t even have to have a vision. All I have to do is report things as accurately as I can from moment to moment.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From “Hello! I Must Be Cohen” By Gavin Martin (New Musical Express, January 9, 1993).

“It’s been my experience that there is no situation which is artificial. There are responses which are artificial or untrue.” Leonard Cohen

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Cohen Regrets (1973) by Alastair Pirrie. Beat Patrol: December 30, 2008. [Originally written for the New Musical Express: March 10, 1973.] Photo Credit: Peter Brosseau/Library and Archives Canada/PA-170174.

“In [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.” Leonard Cohen

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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.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

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.

Originally posted July 7, 2011 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“I’m not attached to my virtues” Leonard Cohen

Malka Marom: Free concerts in mental wards, why?

Leonard Cohen: Oh, it satisfies my notion of virtue, I think the news will get around that I’m a virtuous person.

Malka Marom: Why not old folks homes? – why only mental wards?

Leonard Cohen: I should really extend my virtuous activity, hardly give these concerts any longer.

Malka Marom: At one time you said “they were the only people who could understand my landscape…”

Leonard Cohen: I gave all sorts of reasons for those kinds of activities I was infected with the general notion of self improvement, and I thought that just giving concerts for money was inconsistent with my own version of self virtue and I thought that this would be the most appropriate place to extend those activities.

Malka Marom: You are saying this in the past tense.

Leonard Cohen: Oh, yeah, I’m not going to do anymore of that stuff.

Malka Marom: Why?

Leonard Cohen: I don’t know, perhaps I will.

Malka Marom: Why not this preoccupation with expressing your virtues? [sic]

Leonard Cohen: I am not attached to my virtues at this practical moment. I think after a couple of children and a few wives and general experience in the market place, you arrive at a more realistic vision of yourself and I don’t think that these charitable activities are consistent now with my awn version of myself. I’m much nastier than that. You see I was lying when I was performing those virtuous activities – I don’t feel like lying now. Really, I’m going on tour now for very professional and specific reasons – I really want to play this music for people and get paid for it.

Malka Marom: And yet you told me just a few minutes ago that you would like to cover Canada in the north because it was important for you and for the people.

Leonard Cohen: Yes – well occasionally I lapse into other frames of mind.

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Leonard Cohen

 

From an interview with Malka Marom (1970s). Photo of Leonard Cohen & John Miller property of John Miller. Originally posted December 13, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“I think that’s what depression is. The refusal to go deep enough into questions.” Leonard Cohen

Interview With Leonard Cohen. France-Inter: October 6, 1997.Transcription of the radio program Synergie With Jean-Luc Esse And Leonard Cohen. Translated from French by Nick Halliwell, UK. Accessed at LeonardCohenFiles.

“We are all part of another reality. I mean, we are all thought of somehow. Something has forgotten us or something remembers us.” Leonard Cohen 1966

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In other words, yours is sort of a subjective reality then.

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I don’t know. I don’t understand that, really, I’m not being coy when I say that I don’t understand what that means, but I… something has happened to my head somewhere… I really have to put myself in some other place when I think about what that means – subjective reality – I just think that in a way we are all part of another reality. I mean, we are all thought of somehow. Something has forgotten us or something remembers us. I think that occasionally if you tune in on that thing – or if you don’t tune in to it, then maybe the world is subjective reality – and a painful one. But when you tune in to that other thing that is thinking you, then maybe it is an objective reality, and you feel high. I really don’t know where it is, but it’s like this drone going on all the time. It’s an electrical drone that exists through all things, and you’re hanging yourself on that, or doing your tightrope walk on that, or you’re doing it somewhere else. It is just a matter of whether you want to be delighted by it or not. It’s really whether you choose to hear the objective drone or you choose not to. Whether you choose to or not, somehow you are still working with it.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

A Session With Poet Cohen by Jon Whyte et al. The Gateway: December 2, 1966 (The Gateway is the student newspaper of The University of Alberta)

“You listen to politicians speaking and you can’t believe they live in the same country as you because they seem to be speaking from some position that’s fictional.” Leonard Cohen – 1988

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We seem to be in the process of evaporating our culture pretty thoroughly, but something else will happen. We also seem to be in one of those periods where there’s a great gap between public expression and private experience, and where almost anything that manifests itself on the public level has an air of artificiality and irrelevance. You listen to politicians speaking and you can’t believe they live in the same country as you because they seem to be speaking from some position that’s fictional. It’s not their fault, it’s just that the public style today has gotten tired and is in a process of collapsing, and it takes a courageous person to speak with the language that already exists in the private sphere. I don’t want to offer a wholesale condemnation, but I’ve found hardly anything that speaks to my private experiencequotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Eight Hours To Harry, Kristine McKenna (KCRW: Oct 1988). Photo of Leonard Cohen by Roland Godefroy (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Originally posted at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric. Thanks to Emma PB