It’s been one year since Leonard Cohen died. There are tributes all over Canada and the world. In Montreal, the city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a massive mural to pay tribute.
Is it just me, or is this just totally contrary to this Leonard Cohen’s life? The humble man who claimed to still let his neighbours use his washing machine when they so obliged. The man who spent years living in a Californian monastery so he could be engulfed in quiet and thought.
In any case, if people want to celebrate his life with parties and murals, I have no problem with that. In fact, I totally understand the urge to make your sadness or your affection public. Like all geniuses, everyone had a different relationship with his art, and I’m sure, for many like myself it is deeply personal.
Here is Leonard Cohen for me.
Leonard Cohen is what you listen to when things fall apart and you need context. The below lyric- if you really spend time contemplating it, should give you solace for whatever miserable situation you may be going through:
“There is a crack, there is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”.
Leonard Cohen means Montreal. An extremely charming and elegant city precisely because it’s not trying to be so. A city that is dark and cold but still has a warmth bubbling just under the surface. It’s a city that, though not oblivious to the latest trends, seems to harbour some sort of secret that the rest of us can aspire to but never have for ourselves.
“I bite my lip
I buy what I’m told
From the latest hit
To the wisdom of old
But I’m always alone
And my heart is like ice
And it’s crowded and cold
In my secret life”
Leonard Cohen means Jewishness. I can hear in his melodies the same one that I did when I went to synagogue with my parents as a kid. For those who have never been, a synagogue is very different from a church. No one claps their hands or shouts. There is no band or choir. Instead, it’s lead by a man with a baritone voice and the congregation chants behind him. The man at the front is contemplating god and the deepest mysteries that confront us all:
“And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
Who in your merry merry month of may,
Who by very slow decay,
And who shall I say is calling?”
There is obviously no ‘right’ way to remember Leonard Cohen. But for me, it will be with headphones on, solitary, letting the words and music evolve with meaning for my life today, like it has done so many times in the past.