Theology of Leonard Cohen

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HelenOE
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby HelenOE » Wed Sep 24, 2014 9:40 pm

blonde madonna wrote:You're right Peter, got the song wrong. Thanks for correcting that.

'Samson and New Orleans' is a dark song that makes reference to another old testament/Hebrew bible story of Samson bringing down the temple and killing more Philistines in his death than he ever did in his life. I'm not sure who the king is, maybe God, maybe Obama? Saying this because Jesus wasn't in the old testament, but the way Cohen mixes things up you never know.
It could be the Philistine king... the account in Judges says that all the Philistine rulers (kings of city-states, basically) were present in the temple when Samson brought it down. In this case, a bloody crown would be a reference to a reign founded on violence. Your mileage may vary.
Steven
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Steven » Wed Sep 24, 2014 11:59 pm

Hi HelenOE,

Yes, about the similarity you mentioned and that the words are synonymous.

"Born In Chains" is ambiguous (obscure) enough to make it more intriguing to a wider range of
biblically literate people than if it were written with clearer meanings. Intriguing, though,
may be at the expense of some of the emotional impact that the song could have had. On the
other hand, people can read into the lyrics what works for them, and, for some, this may amplify
their emotional responses. Haven't changed my mind about the probability that the song is
constructed to encourage a particular interpretation that may or may not be in line with the
songwriter's own belief and personal experience.
holydove
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby holydove » Thu Sep 25, 2014 9:03 pm

blonde madonna wrote:Yes T, I heard "sun" initially and I think the song can accommodate either (Son or sun).

But your use of the word hologram is confusing me ...
Excuse me for adding yet another dimension to the hologram, but the name "Samson", from the Hebrew "Shimshon", means: Sun Child, or Son of the Sun. And Samson was given his superhuman strength for the purpose of liberating the Jews from the oppressive rule of the Philistines; so, one could say that he was born to be a saviour, like Jesus. But Samson kind of neglected, or resisted, that purpose for a long time. So, given the lyric: "was our prayer so damn unworthy/ the Son rejected it" - the "Son" could be an analogy referring to either Jesus or Samson.
Tchocolatl
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Tchocolatl » Thu Sep 25, 2014 11:01 pm

Why do I only have solar energy in mind since the sun pointed at the song's horizon ? The use of clean solar energy instead. And the use of other clean energies, like with hybrid cars, for example ?

Cut the wires : shut the powers.

Things like that?

*

Holydove, so very interesting to have your Jewish point of view! I listened to the song again, and how sad his voice is. It is heartbraking. But this is not my point.

I saw another mixed of the figure of Jesus and Samson.

The king so kind and solemn
He wears a bloody crown
So stand me by that column
Let me take this temple down

This king so kind and solemn wearing a bloody crown, looks like the Son on the cross, they put a crown made of torns on his head, and all the representation of the Christ on the Cross is wearing this bloody crown. Just like Samson martyrised.

Now. For me I still see something about Israel, Israel that is fighting to death, threatening to destroy itself, blindly.

And this sadness. It brakes my heart to hear it in his voice.

Such a very beautiful song. Huge.


*

This mixing provides the effect that both sides can be depicted when it comes to the constation that religion was not of any help. Religion or a philosophy, like buddhism, for example (which often use destiny as an excuse to be indifferent to others and what is happening to them).

Although

There’s other ways to answer
That certainly is true


they were not mentioned in detail in the song.

*
I listened to the song with headphone. I wonder if they created the CD with headphone on the head all the way, but the songs seem better when listened this way. To me, anyway.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
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blonde madonna
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby blonde madonna » Fri Sep 26, 2014 12:39 pm

Thank you Steven for starting this topic, it's a big one, but I know from BOM discussions that you will have given it much thought.

Helen, I thought of the Philistine king but ... would he be kind?

Holydove, another layer of meaning I am unfamiliar with just makes me appreciate this song more. To put Samson (a different part of the story from Hallelujah) in New Orleans is so Leonard Cohen. The religious, cultural, historical, racial meanings are resonating with me.

I'm getting this hologram thing I think, Tchoc, and still more ideas to ponder on, at first so left field but, with time, enlightening. I get the solar energy thing, it's a big topic here atm.

I finally have my CD with lyrics in hand, happy day. But, as always, feel like I need to know more. The remnant all dishonoured on the bridge of misery, we who cried for mercy from the bottom of the pit, who are they? The chains are gone from heaven, the storms are wild and free sounds like a reference to our fears about climate change.
Yet LC, from his bed in Tinsel Town wants to take this temple down, what does the temple represent?
HelenOE
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby HelenOE » Fri Sep 26, 2014 5:01 pm

blonde madonna wrote: Helen, I thought of the Philistine king but ... would he be kind?
Well, probably not!
Yet LC, from his bed in Tinsel Town wants to take this temple down, what does the temple represent?
I don't see how it can represent anything other than worship of the wrong thing or things, but exactly what those things might be is not exactly specified clearly.
Steven
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Steven » Sat Sep 27, 2014 2:42 am

Hi blonde madonna,

You're welcome about starting this topic. Glad to read the replies that
you and others have made to this thread.

I'm hearing "Samson In New Orleans" as possibly being based on a view of
of national Israel (the Jewish people) from a Christian perspective. Accordingly,
the city in the first verse would be Jerusalem. The "remnant" would be
the Jewish people, those that are around despite the persecution and decimations
encountered over centuries. As mentioned by someone earlier in this thread,
the bloody-crowned king would be Jesus with his crown of thorns.
That the prayer was rejected can be in line, for Christians, with John 14:6 KJV
which reads: "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man
cometh unto the Father but by Me." -- Without Jesus as an intermediary, lots of
Christians hold and have held that nonbelievers' prayers aren't, to use the
word from the song, "worthy" to be heard. If the song is what I'm taking
it to be, New Orleans is part of the title to indicate that the song is set in
modern times. The temple to be taken down brings to mind Samson's
demolition work and also the destruction of Jerusalem's First and Second
Temples. The "you" in the song would be God. Tinsel Town is a reference
to Hollywood. In the context of the song, probably included because of
its decadent side and often less than holy movie product.

P.S. The lines that most strongly support a view that the song is presenting a
Christian theme are:
"Was our prayer so damn unworthy
The Son rejected it?"
Without these two lines scant evidence exists within the song. Without them,
it can be said that the song draws from only non-Gospel bible texts and that
it is within the scope of traditional Jewish apocalyptic thought.
HelenOE
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby HelenOE » Sat Sep 27, 2014 9:07 am

The other thing that's not altogether clear (to me) is: who exactly is saying the line "was our prayer so damn unworthy that the Son rejected it?" Is it the narrator (Leonard?) or is it the "you" he's talking to?
Tchocolatl
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Tchocolatl » Sun Sep 28, 2014 12:54 am

Few more :

Shimshon was kind of blindly attracted to the beauty of women. More to their beauty than to the women, as it seems. It is well stressed in the Bible. Anybody who reads the Bible knows that there is no such thing as sexual taboos in the Book, so this or having a haircut, it is the same : a fact. and therefore, it is written.

I felt also like it may be about a friend fighting, or dead during a war, in Israel.

The hurricane in New Orlean must remain the main subject of the song. Climatic changes due to manhood activities. Hurricanes, tsunamis and such will increase with the deterioation of the ecosystem. They will make victims, will destroy countries and refugees will go where they can... A real picture of the end of the world.

So I see a ray of light pointing for both :
all those wars for fossile energy, to use such energy to destroy the only environment we can live in without the support of any equipment.
and the problem of Israel being about to destroy itself in this never ending story.

To develop as efficient means to use clean energy as can be.

I see the power provided to "Little Son" by G-d, as the use of solar energy.

And also, use other clean energy, because to rely on just one, it is not the best. As Samson proved us

Ecology is a big issue right now in Israel.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
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Diane
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Diane » Sun Sep 28, 2014 2:14 pm

Steven wrote:Leonard Cohen has been quoted as saying about "Born In Chains": "I've rewritten the lyric many times to accommodate the changes in my theological position, which is very insecure."
LC's theological position has always been wonderfully all-encompassing hasn't it?

"Take this temple down." I may be reading too much into it, but in addition to the biblical references it could be an allusion to the Buddha's words at his enlightenment when he compares his ego to a housebuilder(from the Dhammapada):

"Oh housebuilder! You have now been seen. You shall build the house no longer. All your rafters are broken, your ridgepole shattered. My mind has attained unconditional freedom. Achieved is the end of craving."
Tchocolatl
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Tchocolatl » Sun Sep 28, 2014 6:00 pm

I'm enlightened! Huge!

Of course : the piece is matching perfectly the puzzle. (mine, in any case).
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
Steven
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Steven » Tue Sep 30, 2014 5:09 am

HelenOE wrote:The other thing that's not altogether clear (to me) is: who exactly is saying the line "was our prayer so damn unworthy that the Son rejected it?" Is it the narrator (Leonard?) or is it the "you" he's talking to?
Hi HelenOE,

Seems to me that it's the narrator. Am not altogether clear on much of anything with this song.
The song was written to allow for various takes on its contents, otherwise L.C. would have been
far less ambiguous. Perhaps a central part of his criteria for what makes a song work is that people
get engaged with it, while being less concerned about whether the meanings for him (if he is fully
consciously aware of them) are communicated to most others. There'd have to be a consensus on
something central, though, that listeners arrive at, presumably.
Steven
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Steven » Tue Sep 30, 2014 6:07 am

Diane wrote:
Steven wrote:Leonard Cohen has been quoted as saying about "Born In Chains": "I've rewritten the lyric many times to accommodate the changes in my theological position, which is very insecure."
LC's theological position has always been wonderfully all-encompassing hasn't it?

"Take this temple down." I may be reading too much into it, but in addition to the biblical references it could be an allusion to the Buddha's words at his enlightenment when he compares his ego to a housebuilder(from the Dhammapada):

"Oh housebuilder! You have now been seen. You shall build the house no longer. All your rafters are broken, your ridgepole shattered. My mind has attained unconditional freedom. Achieved is the end of craving."
Hi Diane,

I imagine that Leonard Cohen has a tendency to have his theological position pretty much be all-encompassing,
or that he at least has strived to do so. He has immersed himself deeply into various traditions; doing so has
to have resulted in the experiences reaching into most if not all areas of his consciousness/life. I Like your
suggestion of a possible allusion to the Buddha's words in "Samson In New Orleans." -- Egocentrism defiles many
a temple and the quote you gave meshes nicely with the song. The quote and song include mention of an external structure; in the quote from the Buddha, the structure is a metaphor for what has taken place on the inside. In the
song, the structure (the temple) could be a stand in for internal work that needs to be done.
stephencharlton
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby stephencharlton » Tue Sep 30, 2014 6:23 pm

An "insecure theological position," accorded to Leonard in the previous post best sums up the original question.
How reassuring that an 80 yr old icon can have doubts and insecurities, and describe himself so eloquently in song !
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Diane
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Re: Theology of Leonard Cohen

Postby Diane » Wed Oct 01, 2014 1:30 am

Hi Steven (good to bump into you again), and Tchoc. Thanks for your thoughts. I like the idea, but I don't have confidence that Samson In New Orleans does make a sideways allusion to enlightenment, but whether it does or not, conflation of theological approaches only really happens in poetry, and LC is a master of this art. You gotta take your hat off to him for that. (He can keep his hat on.)

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