Leonard Cohen: The yearning at your core

Leonard Cohen is a man who lived with inner anguish, but did so gallantly. He celebrated the melancholy of life. He planted the truth of our existence (we die, my friends!) before us without apology. He wrestled with all this, but, again, without apology.

Image via Sanjeev Kugan
Image via Sanjeev Kugan

In the wake of his recent passing, you might like to catch up on how he took five years (unapologetically) to write Hallelujah

And to revisit his beautiful line about how we have to become the ocean to avoid being seasick

The New Yorker published a heart-soaring longread about Cohen and his brave confrontation of darkness recently. I liked lots in it. But this bit stuck with me:

 “Even before he had much of an audience, he had a distinct idea of the audience he wanted. In a letter to his publisher, he said…

“He wanted to reach ‘inner-directed adolescents, lovers in all degrees of anguish, disappointed Platonists, pornography-peepers, hair-handed monks and Popists’.”

The line is perfectly evocative. All six cohorts share the same desperate, grasping and well-meaning pain. All search for love and come up with… death. 

Angsty teens who are pissed off that the world is not what was promised as a kid are facing the same view of the abyss of existence as the couple who sit across from each other on a couch screaming out their pain, aware they love each other, aware they’re killing the love, aware there is some bigger point to it all that they are meant to be attending to. But what?

I only know a few monks and Popists (by which I take Cohen to mean ‘Pope supporters’). But I’ve known the thuddy disappointment of Platonism – how can something exist if we can’t touch it? Does any of “this” exist? Where is the line?

So many of have this yearning at our core. But we’re unable to articulate it. Cohen did…and bless him for it.

Do you have a favourite Cohen line?

Share this post