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May 28, 2009

Leonard Cohen

A version of this post appears in the June edition of the national newspaper of the Anglican Church of Canada, "The Anglican Journal."

There are 6,000 of us gathered in this sterile gray sports arena. We are mostly in our fifties. We are drawn here to listen to a seventy-four year old singer who has been part of our lives for the past thirty years.

No one would say he is the greatest musician who has ever performed. He is not the most profound poet. Certainly his appeal does not lie in the elaborate choreography and glitter of his simple stage show with six band members and three back-up vocalists.

Leonard Cohen’s enduring appeal lies in his honesty.

He tells us the truth about our lives. In his haunting anthem “Hallelujah,” he announces, “I didn’t come to Victoria to full ya.” And he is true to his word, gently pulling back the bandages on our wounded souls.

Cohen acknowledges that life is complex and we have navigated life’s winding ways imperfectly at best. He tells us that sometimes we have failed; sometimes we have lost our way and wandered astray. We have struggled. We have been guilty of sin, have tried to forgive and begged for forgiveness. We have stumbled along the path often leaving a terrible mess behind.

We have hurt one another, have let each other down, have betrayed those we love and failed to be true to our deepest convictions. We have been lost in loneliness and failed again and again at the mysterious enterprise of love. Our awareness of the impermanence of life and the closeness of death has been at times overwhelming. We have felt we might be drowning.

Cohen understands that “There is a crack in everything.”

It is not that he is complaining. He simply describes our lives as we have lived them. It is good to name the brokenness we know is true.

But he does not leave us with the broken pieces. Leonard Cohen finds shards of light in the midst of the fractured fragments of our experience. “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” He has found the faint outline of beauty all along the way.

We have done the best we could. And in the honesty and openness of his words, we find compassion for ourselves and for one another, perhaps even for the world with all its flaws.

Having stirred our hearts for three and a half hours, Cohen skips nimbly from the stage. We move quietly, almost reverently out into the night, perhaps able to live more gently towards ourselves and more kindly towards those with whom we share the often painful journey that is our lives. His honesty has left the world a better place.

1 comment:

Rob H said...

One might suggest a person went not to hear thunder and lights but to see and hear a man noted for his thoughtful and thought provoking insights using poetry , music and words.
Given he spoke of oppression in his many articles then I suggest he touches the hearts of a vast majority of us.
Given that the majority of us have hearts towards others issues and we who are in in God's hands can identifty oppression and growth so see we might help out, perhaps. Of course we would all leave his concert feeling renewed as Cohen brought to light for us situations where we might grow and help out.
The concert was a natural in that we would leave refershed and renewed.
He gives us , perhaps, a biblical renewal even though it was not a biblical experience and he is not a preacher.