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Cohen, Leonard - Going home

Identifier

023435

Type of spiritual experience

Background

The New Yorker – extracted from the article in the October 17, 2016 Issue   Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker By David Remnick
 “The big change is the proximity to death,” he said. “I am a tidy kind of guy. I like to tie up the strings if I can. If I can’t, also, that’s O.K. But my natural thrust is to finish things that I’ve begun.”

Cohen said he had a “sweet little song” that he’d been working through, one of many, and, suddenly, he closed his eyes and began reciting the lyrics:

Listen to the hummingbird
Whose wings you cannot see
Listen to the hummingbird
Don’t listen to me.

 Listen to the butterfly
Whose days but number three
Listen to the butterfly
Don’t listen to me.

 Listen to the mind of God
Which doesn’t need to be
Listen to the mind of God
Don’t listen to me.

He opened his eyes, paused awhile. Then he said, “I don’t think I’ll be able to finish those songs. Maybe, who knows? And maybe I’ll get a second wind, I don’t know. But I don’t dare attach myself to a spiritual strategy. I don’t dare do that. I’ve got some work to do. Take care of business. I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.”

Cohen’s hand has been bothering him, so he plays the guitar less than he did—“I’ve lost my ‘chop’ ”—but he was eager to show me his synthesizer. He sets a chord progression going with his left hand, flips some switches to one mode or another, and plays a melody with his right. At one point, he flipped on the “Greek” mode, and suddenly he was singing a Greek fisherman’s song, as if we had suddenly transported ourselves back in time, to Dousko’s Taverna, “in the deep night of fixed and falling stars” on the island of Hydra.

In his chair, Cohen waved away any sense of what might follow death. That was beyond understanding and language: “I don’t ask for information that I probably wouldn’t be able to process even if it were granted to me.” Persistence, living to the last, loose ends, work—that was the thing. A song from four years ago, “Going Home,” made clear his sense of limits:

“He will speak these words of wisdom /
 Like a sage, a man of vision / 
Though he knows he’s really nothing / 
But the brief elaboration of a tube.”

 

A description of the experience

LEONARD COHEN'S - GOING HOME

I love to speak with Leonard
He's a sportsman and a shepherd
He's a lazy bastard
Living in a suit

But he does say what I tell him
Even though it isn't welcome
He will never have the freedom
To refuse

He will speak these words of wisdom
Like a sage, a man of vision
Though he knows he's really nothing
But the brief elaboration of a tube

Going home
Without my sorrow
Going home
Sometime tomorrow
To where it's better
Than before

Going home
Without my burden
Going home
Behind the curtain
Going home
Without the costume
That I wore

He wants to write a love song
An anthem of forgiving
A manual for living with defeat

A cry above the suffering
A sacrifice recovering
But that isn't what I want him to complete

I want to make him certain
That he doesn't have a burden
That he doesn't need a vision

That he only has permission
To do my instant bidding
That is to SAY what I have told him
To repeat

Going home
Without my sorrow
Going home
Sometime tomorrow
Going home
To where it's better
Than before

Going home
Without my burden
Going home
Behind the curtain
Going home
Without the costume
That I wore

I love to speak with Leonard
He's a sportsman and a shepherd
He's a lazy bastard
Living in a suit

The source of the experience

Cohen, Leonard

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image

 

Activities

Observation contributed by: Francis Keeble