Now I bid you farewell, I don’t know when I’ll be back
They’re moving us tomorrow to that tower down the track
But you’ll be hearing from me baby, long after I’m gone
I’ll be speaking to you sweetly
From a window in the Tower of Song

–Leonard Cohen, “The Tower of Song”

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You Hear This Other Deep Reality Singing To You All The Time

“I have no idea what I am doing,” he said. “It’s hard to describe. As I approach the end of my life, I have even less and less interest in examining what have got to be very superficial evaluations or opinions about the significance of one’s life or one’s work. I was never given to it when I was healthy, and I am less given to it now.”

When I asked him if he intended his performances to reflect a kind of devotion, he hesitated before he answered. “Does artistic dedication begin to touch on religious devotion?” he said. “I start with artistic dedication. I know that if the spirit is on you it will touch on to the other human receptors. But I dare not begin from the other side. It’s like pronouncing the holy name—you don’t do it. But if you are lucky, and you are graced, and the audience is in a particular salutary condition, then these deeper responses will be produced.”

“I know there’s a spiritual aspect to everybody’s life, whether they want to cop to it or not,” Cohen said. “It’s there, you can feel it in people—there’s some recognition that there is a reality that they cannot penetrate but which influences their mood and activity.

“What I mean to say is that you hear the Bat Kol.” The divine voice. “You hear this other deep reality singing to you all the time, and much of the time you can’t decipher it. Even when I was healthy, I was sensitive to the process. At this stage of the game, I hear it saying, ‘Leonard, just get on with the things you have to do.’ It’s very compassionate at this stage. More than at any time of my life, I no longer have that voice that says, ‘You’re fucking up.’ That’s a tremendous blessing, really.”

— Leonard Cohen, interviewed by David Remnick in The New Yorker

We Must Get Back To Faith And Hope And Belief

And guilt breeds fear and anxiety, and anxiety breeds fear, and it goes around — it’s that old vicious circle where one thing reinforces the other, which drives you day and night to instant gratification. Anything of a serious nature isn’t “instant” — you can’t “do” the Sistine Chapel in one hour. And who has time to listen to a Mahler symphony, for God’s sake?

We must get back to faith and hope and belief — things we’re all born with. But unfortunately we’re also born thinking we’re the center of the universe. And of all traumas, that one is the biggest and most difficult to get rid of. And the hardest principle to absorb is the Copernican one: that you’re just another speck on this planet, which is a speck in the solar system, which is a speck in the galaxy, which is a speck in the universe … which is a speck in something even bigger that we don’t have the minds to contemplate.

There is so much inherent goodness in people that if they aren’t inhibited by traumas and are given half a chance, it shines through.

— Leonard Bernstein, from Dinner with Lenny  by Jonathan Cott, found on Brain Pickings

To Feel Like Art Has Chosen You

In this case, the role of the fan is still to be a participant, and to participate is to grant yourself permission to immerse, to willingly, gladly, efface and subsume yourself for the sake of the larger meaning but also to provide meaning. It’s symbiotic. My favourite kind of musical experience is to feel afterward that your heart is filled up and transformed, like it is pumping a whole new kind of blood into your veins. This is what it is to be a fan: curious, open, desiring for connection, to feel like art has chosen you, claimed you has its witness.

–Carrie Brownstein, Hunger Makes me a Modern Girl (p 5)

To Get A Sense That We Have Already Journeyed Through Something

Cover - HUNGER MAKES ME A MODERN GIRL-388

Nostalgia is so certain: the sense of familiarity it instills makes us feel like we know ourselves, like we’ve lived. To get a sense that we have already journeyed through something — survived it, experienced it –is often so much easier and less messy than the task of currently living through something. Though hard to grasp, nostalgia is elating to bask in — temporarily restoring color to the past. It creates a sense memory that momentarily simulates context. Nostalgia is recall without the criticism of the present day, all the good parts, memory without pain. Finally, nostalgia asks so little of us, just to be noticed and revisited; it doesn’t require the difficult task of negotiation, the heartache and the uncertainty that the present does.

–Carrie Brownstein, Hunger Makes me a Modern Girl (p 4)

Behold The Gates Of Mercy

Come Healing

O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises
You never dared to vow

The splinters that you carry
The cross you left behind
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

O see the darkness yielding
That tore the light apart
Come healing of the reason
Come healing of the heart

O troubled dust concealing
An undivided love
The Heart beneath is teaching
To the broken Heart above

O let the heavens falter
And let the earth proclaim:
Come healing of the Altar
Come healing of the Name

O longing of the branches
To lift the little bud
O longing of the arteries
To purify the blood

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

O let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

— Leonard Cohen

You Are My Sunshine

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

The other night dear, as I lay sleepin’
I dreamed, I held you in my arms
When I awoke dear, I was mistaken
So I hung my head and I cry

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

I’ll always love you and make you happy
If you will only say the same
But if you leave me to love another
But you’ll regret it all some day

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

You told me once dear, you really loved me
And no one else could come between
But now you’ve left me and you love another
And you have shattered all my dreams

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away
Please don’t take my sunshine away

— Written by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell

The Alluring Danger Of Dilettantism

I’ve been puzzled by the popularity of the game Guitar Hero, for what seems to me like obvious reasons. It’s like karaoke minus the trouble of having to hear the sounds you make. If you want a more interactive way to enjoy music, why not dance, or play air guitar? Or better yet, if holding a guitar appeals to you, why not try actually learning how to play? For the cost of an Xbox and the Guitar Hero game, you can get yourself a pretty good guitar. I assume I am missing the point of it, the competitive thrill, but I can’t help but feel that Guitar Hero (much like Twitter) would have been utterly incomprehensible to earlier generations, that it is a symptom of some larger social refusal to embrace difficulty…A society that requires such short cuts and preemptive blows in the name of the short-attention span surely must be deeply broken, our progenitors probably would have thought.

To take a trivial example, let’s say you decide you like psychedelic music and want to “master” it by having a deep familiarity with the genre. But then you stumble on the hardcore psych MP3 blogs, and you are probably at that point discouraged by the impossibility of ever catching up and listening to it all. There is simply too much that’s now available too readily. You might still download everything you can get your hands on—that costs nothing but disk space and a minimal amount of time—but you’ll never make significant use of the larger portion of what you acquire. Acquiring has supplanted inquisitive use as the self-realizing activity. You have become a collector of stuff as opposed to a master of psychedelic music.

This seems to happen generally, as what Elster calls “the marginal disutility of not consuming” grows stronger—i.e., we have a harder time giving up the thrill of novelty, of exposing ourselves to new things. We end up collecting things rather than knowing them, and we display our collections in the hopes that others will recognize us as though we actually do know them.

Dilettantism is a perfectly rational response to the hyperaccessibility of stuff available to us in the market, all of which imposes on us time constraints where there was once material scarcity. These time constraints become more itchy the more we recognize how much we are missing out on (thanks to ever more invasive marketing efforts, often blended in to the substance of the material we are gathering for self-realization). We opt instead for “diversity,” and begin setting about to rationalize the preferability of novelty even further, abetted by the underlying message of much our culture of disposability. Concentration takes on more of the qualities of work—it becomes a disutility rather than an end vis-a-vis the stuff we acquire. If something requires us to concentrate, it costs us more and forces us to sacrifice more of the stuff we might otherwise consume. In other words, consumerism makes the will and ability to concentrate seem a detriment to ourselves. The next thing you know, everyone touts Guitar Hero as a reasonable substitute for guitar playing and mocks the fuddy-duddy nabobs of negativism who are still hung up on the difference.

— Rob Horning in PopMatters

I’m Not Running The Show

“There’s a similarity in the quality of the daily life” on the road and in the monastery, Mr. Cohen said. “There’s just a sense of purpose” in which “a lot of extraneous material is naturally and necessarily discarded,” and what is left is a “rigorous and severe” routine in which “the capacity to focus becomes much easier.”

Zen has also helped him to learn to “stop whining,” Mr. Cohen said, and to worry less about the choices he has made. “All these things have their own destiny; one has one’s own destiny. The older I get, the surer I am that I’m not running the show.”

— Leonard Cohen, interviewed by Larry Rohter, in the The New York Times