Moral Uncertainty and On That Day

Leonard Cohen's recent albums - share your views with others!
Young dr. Freud
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Postby Young dr. Freud » Tue Nov 02, 2004 7:04 pm

More thiopental sodium for Lizzytysh. Not every patient can be focused on the forum twenty-four hours a day. Most of the patients have jobs which require their undivided attention. You, however, can listen to Leonard on your CD player-- analyze every nuance of every post---answer every post--think about Leonard--dream about Leonard--worry about Leonard, -- all while giving the Florida taxpayer their money's worth.

Well, all but the last part.
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lizzytysh
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Postby lizzytysh » Tue Nov 02, 2004 7:08 pm

That is still no explanation for your "19 minutes," YDF.
Young dr. Freud
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Postby Young dr. Freud » Tue Nov 02, 2004 7:22 pm

Really, Lizzytysh---must I spell it out for you like Leonard did?

It doesn't matter when a person posts. You will always get their F I R S T.

Does it ever occur to you that perhaps the other members DO reply as soon as they read a post. Let me guide you through the steps.

1. Log on
2. Look at Threads
3. Oh, that looks like an interesting topic.
4 Reads Lightning's post.
5 Reads Lizzytysh's post.
6 Reads Lightning's responses
7. Reads Lizzytysh's responses
8. Posts

See how it works. No one is waiting for you to reply to a post so they can pounce. Now back to the day room with you.
Last edited by Young dr. Freud on Tue Nov 02, 2004 7:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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lizzytysh
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Postby lizzytysh » Tue Nov 02, 2004 7:25 pm

:lol: ~ Good breakdown. However, back to your "19 minutes" erroneous presumption ~ it still does not address where I was coming from in my original comment; however, it was a declarative statement of your own. Great deflection, though. I can give you credit for that.
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lizzytysh
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Postby lizzytysh » Tue Nov 02, 2004 7:27 pm

Anth and ~greg ~

Just to clarify ~ in my long posting, my focus was on whether Leonard actually feels that the victims in the September 11 tragedy "deserved" to die. My position on that is an absolute no.

~ Lizzy
Young dr. Freud
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Postby Young dr. Freud » Tue Nov 02, 2004 7:41 pm

I'm going to try one last time. But I know it's useless.
I always smile just a little when a posting sits with no response, and then after someone finally does respond comes more responses on how they're wrong.
Your criticism is that the original post "sits with no response." Nineteen minutes is not a very long time for a post to "sit." You can hardly criticise Greg or anyone else for being a "tardy cripple."
It causes me to wonder where was that person in the beginning, that they didn't agree with the original poster, or take issue themselves with the original poster, if disagreement was the case
Perhaps he was in the shower. Perhaps he was sleeping. Perhaps he was kicking the cat. Or any of the other million and one things that human beings do when they're not reading the Leonard Cohen Files.
and then after someone finally does respond comes more responses on how they're wrong
This is the thing that is really bothering you. Somebody told you you were wrong. And we all know that is impossible.

YdF
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lizzytysh
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Postby lizzytysh » Tue Nov 02, 2004 7:50 pm

YDF ~

One more time ~ for the necessary correction in your chronos. The original posting [to which I referred] had the day/date/time, as noted. The follow-up posting [to which I referred] had the day/date/time, as noted. They were not 19 minutes apart.
"This is the thing that is really bothering you. Somebody told you you were wrong. And we all know that is impossible."
How can your chronos and conclusions be trusted when you can't even get the simplest of things correct. Not only have I [repeatedly] been told I'm wrong; but I try to maintain an atmosphere of reasonable discussion when I am, including allowing for my being wrong.

I know that in all fields there are refresher courses and ongoing, Professional Development courses. Consider checking into some in your area, in your particular field [not the overgrown, empty one across the street, either :wink: ].
Young dr. Freud
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Postby Young dr. Freud » Tue Nov 02, 2004 7:56 pm

See. Hopeless.
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~greg
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Postby ~greg » Thu Nov 04, 2004 1:34 am

I was going to write a whole lot to this.

But this morning I don't feel like writing a whole lot.
I feel like sleeping. For about the next 4 years.

~

"On That Day" - when I first read its lyrics - and
before I'd heard Cohen sing them - seemed to me, too,
to read somewhat the way you all here have apparently
read it, -as standing firmly in the muck and mire
of far-left moral-relativism. Unfortunately this
seems to be as far as you've taken it. And I mean
both of you (lizzy and lightning). You don't disagree on
the point. You only differ in your attitudes about
"moral relativism".

Attitudes about moral relativism don't anger me.
(I'm myself an "extremist on both sides" of the issue.)

Tangents, and off-topic topics, don't anger me.
And no interpretation of a song, however flaky,
has ever angered me.

What angers me is the nature of "Lightning's"
statement in opening this thread. Not
the assertion (-which is simply absurd.) But the
way it was put, -and her subsequent posts in
the thread that make it clear that she's not
now, never has been, and never will be,
open to reconsidering it. It's idea-fix, an
ossified reductionism, and it's an insult to the
complexity of Cohen's artistry.

And this wouldn't bother me except for the times.
There's just too much of it in this country (the USA).
It's in the house, the senate, the presidency.
Pretty soon,- the supreme court. So I'm just
angry, Lizzy, about things. Aand I'm worried.
But I'll leave that at that, and get on now
with pontificating on what it is I've gotten
out of "On That Day" by not getting rutted
in first impressions.

~

To repeat, when I'd only read the lyrics,
of "On That Day" it seemed to me to be
"morally relativistic".

But then, when I finally heard Cohen sing it,
or maybe the 3rd time, I got the exact opposite
impression of it.

"On That Day" in fact fits rather more squarely
in the weird and wonderful genre of far-right
"9/11 songs." It's jingoistic flag-waving at
its rippling best. -Zionist, almost.
Hardly above Toby Keith's
"Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American) "

Proof that this is how Cohen intended the song
to be heard (at first hearing) is not in the lyrics
so much as in his delivery of them.

(The whole album in fact rivals Dylan
in its dependence on vocal nuance.)

Listen carefully to the opening of "On That Day".
Cohen sounds just like a scolded dejected
school boy having done something wrong,
been punished for it, but still complaining
that it wasn't his fault.

It's satire:
"the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule,
or the like, in exposing, denouncing,
or deriding vice, folly, etc."
The effect may be subtle, but its not
at all subtle in the way he goes on to
squeal: "I wouldn't know". That's blatant,
sarcasm. He couldn't have made it clearer
if he'd said:
"Some people say ...
- and aren't They full of shit?"
(Exactly the same tone of voice, incidentally,
that I detected in "lightning's":
Is there any other "lover of God"
or other who is unsure whether or not
3000 American workers deserved
to be murdered in the 9/11 attacks?
(which only made me wonder all the more
how Cohen's sarcasm could have escaped
"lightning". I wouldn't know about that.
"Through a glass darkly" [a dirty mirror], possibly.)


If you don't happen to be a human being,
then find one and make them explain
this to you in more detail.
But in essence it's this:
--That, when a human being needs, as they
often do, to accuse another human being
of being full of shit, they invariably prefix
their comment with one of various vacuous
pre-parrying formalities such as:
"well, I'm no expert, but..."
or
"I could be wrong, but..."
or
"it's just my opinion, but..."
or
(as in the present case)
"I wouldn't know"

-before adding (an often whispered):
"-but I really think you're full of shit."

(They do this because of a colorful
history of ways of exposing to the light
the innards of other human beings who
had proceed too quickly to the insults,
bypassing the formalities. Natural
selection, then, made, the formalities
a part of our inherited nature, although
it is difficult to explain this to more
rational life forms.)


I don't regard this as my interpretation
of "On That Day".

I regard it as one fact about "On That Day"
that it opens with Cohen mocking
"those who say" -- i.e., - the terrorist's
apologists.

~

However -- that's just the opening of the song.

The song goes on.

It proceeds to mock the persona
it had just set up -- the mocker of "those who say".

It does this by asking the mocker:

"Answer me this
(I won’t take you to court)
Did you go crazy?
Or did you report?"
This is being asked of "*you*".

The assumption is that "you" got the point
about the first half.

And that you identified with the mocker
of "those who say" in it.

That is, that you, too, regard the apologists
and rationalizers of the terrorists as equally
evil or nuts as the terrorists themselves.

And that you do so even to the extent
that you are liable to say so with sarcasm.
Just like this:
Is there any other "lover of God"
or other who is unsure whether or not
3000 American workers deserved
to be murdered in the 9/11 attacks?
The song then proceeds to put "you"
- the mocker - on the spot.

It asks you what was your reaction to 9/11?

And for this it even uses the same kind
of parry, --before the impending insult,
--that it had used before.
That is,
"I won't take you to court"
functions in exactly the same capacity that

"I wouldn't know"
"I wouldn't know" was in the mocker's voice.
"I won't take you to court" is in Cohen's true voice.

In "On That Day" all possible reactions to "9/11"
are reduced to just two: "go crazy", vs "report in".

You don't have to look very
far for what these mean. They're
explained in the song itself.


In the first half of the song,
Cohen presented two types
of people;

1) The mockers of the apologists,
ie, right winged jingoistic fanatics who
are certain that it is they, and only they,
who "reported-in", -- even if
only by waving the flag.

vs

2) - The ones being mocked,
- the "some people" of the song
- the left winged morally relativistic
guilt ridden apologists and rationalizers
of the terrorists. In other words,
those who went crazy.


This is quintessential Cohen.

The duality sounds meaningful at first.
But it's a koan. It's just like the koan
about the cow that easily jumps through
a window, except that its tail gets stuck.

(That last sentence is correct English.
We can, and are inclined to, try and construct
a mental model involving a cow and a window
that conforms to the "meaning" of the sentence.
But the sentence is meaningless. And eventually,
perhaps after 10 years of working on it,
we give up, and thus achieve enlightenment.)


"go crazy", or "report in", left, or right,

what is the true and proper reaction to 9/11,
--in Cohen's honest view?

Can you honestly believe he'd leave it at those two
possibilites?



Recall his song "Democracy" on "The Future":

I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can't stand the scene.
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.

Because that's Cohen's attitude
toward these two characters -
the left and the right. He can't
stand their scene.

( "I'm just staying home tonight"
=
"I’m just holding the fort".)

~~

I consider my case proven to this
point about "On That Day".

That is, that its overt structure is a jingoistic
9/11 song. That it comes on like a call
to arms. And that its attitude about
the terrorists-apologists, -the left,
-is the exact opposite of what "lightning"
has claimed it to be. That the song actually
mocks them, -from the right.

And then that the song proceeds to mock the right.

( Who among the right is certain that he "reported"?
(-apart from the kids who actually enlisted.)

Who among them is even sure he knows
exactly what Cohen could possibly mean
by "to report"? If they think about it
hard and long enough - "did I really report?"
- they may begin to feel that Cohen is
putting them on, ridiculing them, because
that's exactly what he's doing. Perhaps
eventually they'll even achieve the
enlightenment the "report" koan is
intended to lead to. )

~

"On That Day" is ultimately a koan.
--A possibly meaningless thing (-but we
can never be sure) - that therefore
forces us into long and hard "meditation".

--ultimately leading to a break down in rational
thought, - in all left vs right thinking, - altogether.


Because what Cohen is really leading to with
"On That Day" - is exactly this:

"From bitter searching of the heart,
Quickened with passion and with pain
We rise to play a greater part."
"On That Day" leads to
"Villanelle For Our Time".

"Villanelle For Our Time" answers
the koan in "On That Day".

These two songs constitute a dyad.
They are inseparable. They even occupy
the dead center of Dear Heather (songs
6 and 7 of the 12 new ones.)
Together they are what raise Dear Heather
above just another good album.

The repetition in "Villanelle For Our Time"
is somewhat related to the use of mantras
in meditation, but there's nothing in Dear Heather
that's either musak or trance-music.
The repetitions serve rather to insure that
the most important points will be meditated
on, in the western sense of ruminate.
They're not intended to assist in clearing the
mind, but to focus it, --on what's really important.


Incidentally, Cohen even uses the trick
invented (I think) by Lou Reed in the
Velvet's "Sister Ray" - of drawing out
the words sonically.

Cohen does this on these words:
"From bitter searching of the heart,
Reed did it on these words:
"I am searching for my main-line.
I couldn't hit it side-ways."
I think it's entirely possible that
Cohen (who of course knew Reed,
in the '60) - is echoing not just
Reed's technique, but his actual words.

Reed meant to mimic the junkie's indulgent
and time consuming search for a vein in an
arm when most of them are collapsed.

Cohen may even be comparing the frustration
we feel in our "bitter searching of our hearts"
post 9/11 - to exactly that, a junkie's
searching for a vein.

Recap: (my most i-m-p-o-r-t-a-n-t point)
"On That Day" asks a question.
"What is the proper reaction to 9/11?"
or "What could Cohen possibly mean
by 'report' - rightly?"

7"Villanelle For Our Time" answers that question.
The proper reaction, the right way to "report"
is to do "a bitter searching of the heart".
And then, and only *then*, (--- and not before,
--not to be satisfied with "the easy and the smart"
--the left and right limits of "On That Day")
"rise to play a greater part."




~greg.
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lizzytysh
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Postby lizzytysh » Thu Nov 04, 2004 3:04 am

Hi ~greg ~
"And this wouldn't bother me except for the times.
There's just too much of it in this country (the USA).
It's in the house, the senate, the presidency.
Pretty soon,- the supreme court. So I'm just
angry, Lizzy, about things. Aand I'm worried."
I share these feelings.


Now, on to, or back to, the song:

It was fascinating [in the good sense, not as a 'discount'] to read your well-thought-out and in-depth analysis of "On That Day," absent the tone of condescension seen previously. Certainly, the points you're making, seem to require it to a degree, but the way you approach it with tenacity makes it clear that this is how you really feel about the song, and if explaining that offends anyone, then so be it. You've still got to do all you can to make your interpretation clear.

I followed you ~ for the most part ~ but still faded in and out a bit with the way you had to circle back, stating in the 'reverse' some of the things, to make your point. To do justice to your interpretation, I'll print it out tomorrow at work, and then listen to it from your perspective. You make what seem to be some very valid and conceivably correct points. I can imagine Leonard presenting a song in koan form [or a koan in song form]. Some of the points you've made regarding "go crazy" or "report" surfaced in our original discussion of that phrase some time ago.

On the "bitter searching of the heart," I felt to refer to Leonard's lifelong doing so. [I returned to say that when I commented on "Leonard's lifelong doing so," I meant that I felt his choosing of this poem for song related to his own lifelong "bitter searching of the heart" for himself and on behalf of 'man' in general. I 'knew' that this would be a thread into which you'd enter, Joe, as soon as I saw ~greg's analysis of it. You've added even more dimension with regard to the references on the slain and the 'numbers'. I have no doubt that Leonard read and appreciated your own commentary.] I may not have looked far enough, and appreciate the additional directions you've taken me with that phrase. I can appreciate what you say about the placement in the direct center of the album of "On That Day" and "Villanelle" ~ and the relationship between the two. [And, now, Joe, too. When I read both of your postings, it all seems so obvious. I guess I'm still too lost in the beauty of the poems, songs, and Leonard's voice to have started getting all those finer details. Hopefully, I would have started linking on my own, but who knows. Thanks to you, both.]

I can't say I fully understand, yet, or will agree with all that you've said....but, I do certainly appreciate your going to such in-depth levels with your analysis and desire to understand this song.

~ Elizabeth
Last edited by lizzytysh on Thu Nov 04, 2004 2:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Joe Way
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Postby Joe Way » Thu Nov 04, 2004 5:33 am

Greg,
Enjoyed your 'take' on the song, "On That Day" and I'm inclined to agree in many respects.

I, too, think that the two songs, "On That Day" and "Villanelle For Our Times" are purposely and unequivocally intertwined, I liked "On That Day" from my first hearing of it in Carman Hall when the shivers ran down my spine that I was able to hear Leonard's musical comment about 9/11 in New York with my family and friends. The Jew's Harp reached out and grabbed me immediately and my only approach to seven degrees of separation with Leonard was when Jarkko forwarded my meager thoughts on the song to him which he may or may not have read when he was looking for feedback.

All that notwithstanding, if you put the two works side by side performances and all-which is the more powerful? Is Leonard suggesting that work like Scott's are becoming more rare? There were about 3000 dead in the attacks on New York and Washington. Scott references the "millions" slain in WWII. "Millions slain" vs. "wounded New York"-there may be a degree of reference there to the "did you go crazy?" line regarding our response. Anyone in New York who was affected isn't going to buy any arguments about degree. It reminds me of one of my friends who pointed out that there were only about 1000 slain so far in Iraq as opposed to those high casualty Democrat wars as he put it. I don't know the faintest about L's politics and his reluctance to do interviews for the stated reason that he doesn't want to comment about his position on Iraq etc.

I'll hold that Leonard is, at least, a little conflicted on our modern day politics, but I don't think that he thinks it's improved our poetry-his included.

Joe
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
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lizzytysh
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Postby lizzytysh » Thu Nov 04, 2004 2:39 pm

Hi Joe ~

As always, I've enjoyed your commentary very much. I've addressed that with a couple additions in the next-to-last paragraph of my own posting above.

~ Lizzy
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lightning
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Postby lightning » Thu Nov 04, 2004 4:27 pm

Nature Magazine just estimated the dead in Iraq at 100,000, mostly women and children.
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lizzytysh
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Postby lizzytysh » Thu Nov 04, 2004 5:36 pm

Yes, I heard that same figure, Lightning, with the past week. 100,000. I also heard, when confronted with that figure, one of the military head honchos [don't recall which] state that, "We don't keep track of those figures anymore, like we did in VietNam." I can see why :cry: .
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Postby jurica » Sat Nov 06, 2004 2:26 pm

i wouldn't know what LC meant when he said 'i wouldn't know', but i don't think it's an issue of any importance to contemporary politics. we can't form our opinions on account of 'what did LC say'. On That Day is not The Bible - we'll find no great revelation in it. the best a song can do is make us think for ourselves.

i have my opinions about 9/11 as well as i have my opinions on thousands of innocents killed in Iraq.

first of all, i think nobody should make any decisions for other people. in Iraq it was 'national security' at first. when it became farely obvious that Iraq has no 'mass destruction weapons', it became 'hiding Osama Bin Laden'. but the fact is that this accusation was totally unprovable, and most probably false, some people started to ask 'isn't Iraq supposed to be innocent until proven guilty'. THAN it became 'women and public rights' in Iraq, or 'we'll make them accept democracy'.

now - isn't democracy supposed to be about 'right to choose'. weren't Iraq people supposed to wote then? not having Western military forces wote for them.

and how is America, in words of mr. George W. Bush 'spreading freedom' by conquring countries.

how about Africa? why didn't America AND Great Britain AND the rest of European ass-kissing countries attack South Africa where their own people live like kings while black people die of hunger with no rights whatsoever?

how about Australia? why don't they attack them? shouldn't Aborigins there get their claims for country?

how about US itself - where is freedom for real Americans they call Indians? how about all the colonies and all the slaves UK and Spain exploited throughout their history?

...but these 3 000 people were innocent, i hear some say.

well, after the elections - i wonder. if you chose to call it democracy (i myself would hardly use the word), than this war was a choice of all US people, and none of them was innocent.

people, don't wash your hands. none of us is innocent.

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