a literary tribute to leonard cohen.

yesterday’s tomorrow by marc hendrickx (book)

while rummaging through a record store to buy some new music, a dusty bookshelf tucked into the corner distracted me.  i must admit – a book will trump my interest over music any day.   i don’t know if it was the image of canadian icon leonard cohen rugged up in his blue trench coat or the book’s title “yesterday’s tomorrow’ that grasp my attention but whatever it was i am glad it did as i have read the book 5 times over – losing myself deeper in the text with each turn. 

a poet, a songwriter and a performer mr. cohen’s “brand of melancholy” and darkening lyrics have definitely guided me throughout the years – a young fan taking refuge in an old soul.  and within the pages of this book the author, marc hendrickx, “gives a lively insight on [cohen’s] work, showing its depth and relevance for a new generation.” 

here are some of my favourite excerpts and cohen quotes from the pages of book – all of which seem to fit my current life theme of developing a deeper understanding of myself:

meaning of the book: this book deals with man, his life and fate.  it considers the position of the individual in the world, in happiness, in awakening to consciousness, descent, faith, mission, love, old age and death.  antiquated concepts?  not really.  even if we accept that we are all damaged angels, there is no escaping them.  in the end we create our own truth.  not exactly because we look for it with conviction, but rather because we mirror each other and the world. (p. 23)

Will we ever truly discover who we are?  Man as a plaything of fate?  Destined to wander?  Our quest seems endless and maybe we will never truly know who we are, floating around on that sheer endless ocean, the cosmos of our life.  it is not necessarily a hopeless image.  it is just a vision.  man travelling, becoming what he must…with or without faith, travelling is more important than arriving, the questions are more important than the answers.  (p. 33)

Leonard Cohen: we all want to dissolve.  we all need that experience of forgetting who we are.  i think that is what love is – you forget who you are.  forgetting who you are in such a delicious experience and so frightening that we are in this conflicted predicament.  you want it but you really cannot support it.

On using a practice like writing to express your desires to live, how you want to tell the story about your life: artistic talent bring you into conflict with yourself.  unavoidably.  life might well be the only valuable possession of a human being, but how you live it determines how you stand in the world as an individual, and the feeling it gives you.  if you choose words as your tool, you hardly start out from an enviable position.  you are up against a true ocean of boos and poetry, an avalanche of characters…of course the naked fact remains that people exist by the grace of stories.  and each story told is just an interpretation.  that is why stories reappear, why we constantly create new ones, and why we like to tell them with so many layers that plenty of interpretations are possible.  you can love the writing and the storytelling because it is totally yours to shape.  (p. 99)

Leonard Cohen: i have had this urgency from quite young…to make things…mostly it was on a page.  just to make something that worked.  something that rose off the pages, that sang, that had a life of its own.  that could win a heart…

On how women and men compose themselves when falling in and out of love: of course nobody distances him or herself of a longing until it is thoroughly lived.  no woman lets her love and commitment in a relationship die off as long as she hopes that she can bend the course of affairs to her will.  as long as she sees compensations for everything she feels is lacking her relationship.  men are much less intensely implicated in the daily experience and filling out of their life.  they accept off-hand that their relations will endure, just as long as things are fairly good, without delving too deep into the exact content or the concept of ‘love’.  seldom or never do men see the collateral damage an intimate bond sustains throughout the years.  and as the wind tears the leaves off a tree, so time will take their loved on away from them…a unforseeable calamity, against which the emotionally chanceless man will fight with all his might and against better knowledge, if necessary with a plea literally torn from his heart and drenched in tears. (p. 116)

Leonard Cohen: unless the heart breaks, we will never know anything about love.

Interpreting the heartache of breaking up, letting love go and the will to heal a broken spirit: whether you are dumped pontifically or inconsequentially, it is always love with a raw edge.  through the phenomenon of memory you notice that time does not really exist.  in the beginning there is lust, spurred on by your drives, the escape from time.  then you fall in love with someone she might have been.  later you look back.  nostalgia for lost loves resembles the undefined longing for the games you played as a child.  everything is different; returning impossible.  you live in a different now.  (p. 121)

Leonard Cohen: although people change, and their bodies change and their hair grows grey and falls out and their bodies decay and die, i think that there is something that does not change.  about love, and about the feelings we have for people…i feel that love never dies and that when there is an emotion strong enough to gather a song about it, that there is something about that emotion that is indestructible.

On embracing broken failures and lost direction as positive, strengthening experiences in life: and so at a riper age you learn to live with your failures.  the past no longer glides over your present as if a dark cloud.  you know that soon things will be looking up.  soon, you will be freed of all hope…to enjoy is not being.  forgetting is the art.  even if life does not seem to be tailored to your size, you no longer suffer from that fact.  you stand apart from all competition from now on.  just maybe growing old is synonym to the acceptance of all loss…everybody just wants to find peace [at the end of the day].  (p. 132)

Leonard Cohen: human activity is involved with suffering and loss.  anything we do is a triumph over those given realities.  everybody suffers and everybody tries to find a way out of their suffering.  everybody is lonely and everybody tries to find a way out of their loneliness.  as you get older you understand that you must become broken.  that the breaking is part of the process of growing up. 

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