Four years before his death in 2016, Leonard Cohen released the album Old Ideas, which starts with the song Going Home.
I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard
Living in a suit
Assuming “Leonard” refers to the singer, the being speaking to him is likely to be God:
But he does say what I tell him
Even though it isn’t welcome
He just doesn’t have the freedom
This may be regarded as presumptuous or impudent. Leonard Cohen addressed so directly by God, so his words are that of a wise prophet?
He will speak these words of wisdom
Like a sage, a man of vision
We might as well read a very humble attitude from the lyrics, as would be fitting to a lot Cohen has said.
Though he knows he’s really nothing
But the brief elaboration of a tube
The tube may be seen as a reference to Sufi wisdom, as described in the interpretation of Jethro Tull‘s My God: Like a reed can become a flute when holes are carved in, a human can become an instrument of God’s love by virtue of suffering.
There is a famous artist with a well-deserved fan base and great reputation, who is willing to keep writing …
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 all these works are not required any more.
But that isn’t what I need him
So what can he do? Let go of all of his ambitions, his plans, his vision, and be present in the here and now.
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
Which is to SAY what I have told him
So Cohen prepares for death. In a spiritual sense, we can think of dying daily, as Paul testified to in Corinthians 15.
He who dies before he dies does not die when he dies.Jon Kabat-Zinn; other sources ascribe these words to Jacob Boehme, Abraham a Sancta Clara and Angelus Silesius
When a human being dies, it has to let go of everything that connects it to this world. On a spiritual path, it is possible to live through this process before physical death. While some farewells may hurt, it is a path of liberation, of getting rid of burdens.
Without my sorrow
To where it’s better
Without my burden
Behind the curtain
Humble words by Leonard Cohen
The following quote is taken from Leonard Cohen’s acceptance speech at the Prince Asturias Awards, delivered on October 21st, 2011 (in the year before releasing Old Ideas). It may show Cohen did not boast about “speaking to God” …
When I was packing in Los Angeles to come here, I had a sense of unease because I’ve always felt some ambiguity about an award for poetry. Poetry comes from a place that no one commands and no one conquers. So I feel somewhat like a charlatan to accept an award for an activity which I do not command. In other words, if I knew where the good songs came from I’d go there more often.
Another song from Old Ideas has been covered on this blog: Different Sides.
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