For someone whose birthday is today

There is an edited version of an interview with Leonard Cohen published today in The Guardian which makes me wonder about Leonard Cohen and love.

It made me think of someone whose birthday is today (not Leonard Cohen – his birthday is 21 September, as we already reported here . )

According to The Guardian, it is “an edited transcript of an interview conducted for the Canadian broadcaster CBC”.

It seems so cold. Maybe he was just nervous, there was no chemistry with the interviewer (I would not have liked being asked some of these questions), or he was tired, or … feeling (or made to feel) old?

Here are some excerpts

On how his world tour is going:

“…there’s a component that you really don’t command”.

Q: What component is that?

LC:” Some sort of grace, some sort of luck. It’s hard to put your finger on it – you don’t really want to put your finger on it. But there is that mysterious component that makes for a memorable evening. You never really know whether you’re going to be able to be the person you want to be or that the audience is going to be hospitable to the person that they perceive. So there’s so many unknowns and so many mysteries connected – even when you’ve brought the show to a certain degree of excellence”.

LC: “I always had a notion that I had a tiny garden to cultivate. I never thought I was really one of the big guys. And so the work that was in front of me was just to cultivate this tiny corner of the field that I thought I knew something about, which was something to do with self-investigation without self-indulgence. Just pure confession I never felt was really interesting. But confession filtered through a tradition of skill and hard work is interesting to me. So that was my tiny corner, and I just started writing about the things that I thought I knew about or wanted to find out about. That was how it began”.

Q:Have the women in your life been a source of your strength or weakness?

LC: “Good question. It’s not a level playing ground for either of us, for either the man or the woman. This is the most challenging activity that humans get into, which is love. You know, where we have the sense that we can’t live without love. That life has very little meaning without love. So we’re invited into this arena which is a very dangerous arena, where the possibilities of humiliation and failure are ample. So there’s no fixed lesson that one can learn, because the heart is always opening and closing, it’s always softening and hardening. We’re always experiencing joy or sadness. But there are lots of people who’ve closed down. And there are times in one’s life when one has to close down just to regroup”.

Q: Are there times when you’ve lamented the power that women have had over you?

LC: “I never looked at it that way. There’s times when I’ve lamented, there’s times when I’ve rejoiced, there’s times when I’ve been deeply indifferent. You run through the whole gamut of experience. And most people have a woman in their heart, most men have a woman in their heart and most women have a man in their heart. There are people that don’t. But most of us cherish some sort of dream of surrender. But these are dreams and sometimes they’re defeated and sometimes they’re manifested”.

Q: Do you think love is empowering?

LC: “It’s a ferocious activity, where you experience defeat and you experience acceptance and you experience exultation. And the affixed idea about it will definitely cause you a great deal of suffering. If you have the feeling that it’s going to be an easy ride, you’re going to be disappointed. If you have a feeling that it’s going to be hell all the way, you may be surprised”.

Q: Do you regret not having a lifelong partner?

LC: “Non, je ne regrette rien. I’m blessed with a certain amount of amnesia and I really don’t remember what went down. I don’t review my life that way”.

Q: Even in the face of a very successful record that you made in 1992, The Future, do you think dealing with depression was an important part of your creative process?

LC: “Well, it was a part of every process. The central activity of my days and nights was dealing with a prevailing sense of anxiety, anguish, distress. A background of anguish that prevailed”.

Q: How important was writing to your survival?

LC: “It had a number of benefits. One was economic. It was not a luxury for me to write – it was a necessity. These times are very difficult to write in because the slogans are really jamming the airwaves – it’s something that goes beyond what has been called political correctness. It’s a kind of tyranny of posture. Those ideas are swarming through the air like locusts. And it’s difficult for the writer to determine what he really thinks about things. So in my own case I have to write the verse, and then see if it’s a slogan or not and then toss it. But I can’t toss it until I’ve worked on it and seen what it really is”.

Q: What do you consider your darkest hour?

LC: “Well I wouldn’t tell you about it if I knew. Even to talk about oneself in a time like this is a kind of unwholesome luxury. I don’t think I’ve had a darkest hour compared to the dark hours that so many people are involved in right now. Large numbers of people are dodging bombs, having their nails pulled out in dungeons, facing starvation, disease. I mean large numbers of people. So I think that we’ve really got to be circumspect about how seriously we take our own anxieties today … nobody knows what’s going to happen in the next moment.

Q: Are you fearful of death?

LC: “Everyone has to have a certain amount of anxiety about the conditions of one’s death. The actual circumstances, the pain involved, the affect on your heirs. But there’s so little that you can do about it. It’s best to relegate those concerns to the appropriate compartments of the mind and not let them inform all your activities. We’ve got to live our lives as if they’re not going to end immediately. So we have to live under those – some people might call them illusions” …

This edited version of an original interview was published by The Guardian here .


Now, here are some other thoughts on love, one attributed to Leonard Cohen himself, in a less guarded moment, and others more classical:

“If you do have love it’s a kind of wound, and if you don’t have it it’s worse.” – Leonard Cohen, July 1988


Sonnet XLIII by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, – I love thee with the breath;
Smiles, tears, of all my life! – and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning- Sonnet XLIII


Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)

Then Almitra spoke again and said, “And what of Marriage, master?” And he answered saying: You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore. You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days. Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God. But let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) – On Marriage


I Corinthians 13 it: “Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude, Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in the wrong, but rejoices in the right, Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things”.


Governor Sanford in an email to his Argentinian mistress: “…despite the best efforts of my head my heart cries out for you, your voice, your body, the touch of your lips, the touch of your finger tips and an even deeper connection to your soul. I love you”


Comment — there were actually comments published by McClatchy newspaper group on Governor Sanford’s exchange of emails with his mistress, and one said:

“In case some of you have forgotten, or some never experienced, this is that intense, lightning-bolt kind of passionate love that is all consuming. Sometimes it only happens once in a lifetime, and you know it is forever, regardless of the circumstances. (Sometimes it happens more than once…)”

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