Book of Mercy #29-40

Debate on Leonard Cohen's poetry (and novels), both published and unpublished. Song lyrics may also be discussed here.
User avatar
mat james
Posts: 1813
Joined: Sat May 27, 2006 8:06 am
Location: Australia

Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by mat james » Sun May 03, 2009 3:46 am

I struggle to read BOM with religious or mystic connotations; to me it's all about love.
Blonde Madonna

I read in a fascinating book entitled "The Sufis", by Idries Shah, that it is the tradition among middle-eastern poets to write on several levels. In fact, as I remember it he said that more talented poets write on 5 different levels. That means that there are 5 different ways of interpreting the story/poem.
Therefore Blonde Madonna, it is quite possible that we are all on the right track, when interpreting Leonard Cohen's work.
I am sure you are correct when you say "it's all about love". And there is more also, as I see it.
Idreis is worth a read. He is/was brilliant.
Shah made extensive use of traditional teaching stories and parables, texts containing multiple layers of meaning designed to trigger insight and self-reflection in the reader.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idries_Shah

Regards, MatbbgmephistoJ
" Why do you welcome me? asks the bitter heart. Why do you comfort me? asks the heart that is not broken enough. "
Leonard Cohen
...and Manna says
That is I.
That is an odd/fascinating combination Manna; bitter and unbroken. Is there something missing in your life??
(I don't expect an answer to this question; it is more rhetorical). :neutral:

Mat.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
Manna
Posts: 1998
Joined: Fri Feb 09, 2007 6:51 am
Location: Where clouds go to die

Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by Manna » Thu Jul 12, 2012 3:26 pm

" Why do you welcome me? asks the bitter heart. Why do you comfort me? asks the heart that is not broken enough. "
Leonard Cohen
...and Manna says
That is I.
That is an odd/fascinating combination Manna; bitter and unbroken. Is there something missing in your life??
(I don't expect an answer to this question; it is more rhetorical). :neutral:

Mat.

Hi Matj,

I hope you're not offended to have been put on hold for the past 3 years. Long time to have been ignored by me, but my morning coffee has been bringing me back to these old days of wonder & searching, and it's fun having this record of life to be able to go back to where I mentally was. Not that I'm so very different today.

My thinking when I likened myself to the bitter and unbroken is as follows, and I hope it's not too boring.

It was about Jesus. The lovely story goes that when Jesus died on the cross, he made a promise that he would accept all the punishment for everyone's sins. Everyone in the world, no matter what. And I didn't want that. I want to be the one responsible for myself, even if it means some really bad shit is coming down on my head. But don't get the idea that I'm being such a big, brave girl. To have this other guy say that he would take it for me is too great of a gift, and I just don't want to be that far in debt.

And it's about hell. My idea of hell is that it's the worst possible pain & suffering on all kinds of levels forever. And forever? Consider a butterfly on a beach. You know the somewhat haphazard way that butterflies make their way from point to point. Now consider that the butterfly picks up a grain of sand and flies it in its slow, crooked way out to the edge of the universe. We're talking gadzillions of years here. And then the butterfly comes back and does that trip over and over until the entire beach is out at the edge of the universe. All the time it takes our poor, exhausted insect is negligible compared to forever. This is how close I come to fathoming hell.

OK, fine, so we know where the bitterness comes from - some guy trying to be just a little too nice, and my inability to accept this gift.

The unbroken. I've never been severely punished. Punished, yes, but not severely. And all the bad stuff that's happened in my life, I've been able to get over, or at least to get used to. I live in a great pool of love and comfort. I love my life. If it gets to the point where I am broken, maybe I will be able to accept Jesus, but I don't think so. The worse it gets for me, I think, I hope, the less likely I will be able to wish that suffering onto someone else. And I know that supposedly, my big buddy J would be in heaven already, but to go through the act of wishing my punishment on someone else for the sake of my own relief, well, I can say right now in my pool of comfort and love, I hope I wouldn't do that to someone else.
User avatar
mat james
Posts: 1813
Joined: Sat May 27, 2006 8:06 am
Location: Australia

Re: Book of Mercy #29-40

Post by mat james » Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:10 am

Hi Manna,

I’ll respond as a “poet”; as that is who I am; or strive to be.
My sort of ‘poet’ is eclectic and creative and open ended, open minded; a lover of possibilities and fresh air.
………………………………………

My take on things:
(but is is only one sauntering and stumbling fool's opinion).


Argument/Position: Surround scripture from any culture with this “fresh air” of thoughtful contemplation; and let intuition lead where it will.

So, it follows for me that I read and interpret scripture, literature, science and the unfolding world around me as a fresh-air-poet; I look and listen, breathe it all in and tumble it around and then make up my own mind and that mind of mine interprets it all “poetically”.
You more or less hypothesize above, “If it gets to the point where I am broken, maybe I will be able to accept Jesus, but I don't think so.”
“It’s about Jesus…It’s about hell…and it is also about being …unbroken.” (Manna)
I'd like to clarify/expand on this concern of yours:
“Jesus died for our sins”
Saint Paul/Saul said this; not Jesus.
(Pauls letter to the Corinthians: 1Cor 15:1-4)

It is important for me to differentiate between what Jesus is recorded as saying and what others, like Paul have interpreted.
And Christianity has tended to interpret Jesus through the mind of Paul. And I am not always a fan of Paul.
So for me, your problem is with Paul, not Jesus. You find it difficult to accept Paul’s take on the Jesus story.
I like those bibles that have the words of Jesus highlighted in red ink, I think it is the King James Version.
Because I was brought up a Catholic, I tend to use the advice of Jesus and I like to read those red quotes occasionally to refresh my knowledge of what he is supposed to have said….and this is when the poet in me kicks in; I interpret the words as I see fit; as my Poet sees fit. (And I do the same for The Bhagavad Gita and the IChing, the Sufi Poets and so on.) ...and the poet in me communicates with the Poet in all of those interesting people/mystics.
But I am a bit of an apostate (one who rejects the religious interpretations of their up-bringing) as for me, it is the only road to freedom of thought and personal responsibility. An apostate rejects the interpretations of others if they feel they ought to. And there-in lays their freedom. (+ personal responsibility). An apostate strives for Truth when it comes to matters of the Mind. As a scientist you know and understand the importance of this objective attitude and for “fresh-air-Poets”, (like you, I suggest) this attitude saturates all disciplines.

…and as for sin, Judgement Day, Hell and all that stuff, I simply say to my little god (inside of me); “Thy Will be done”.
"If it be your Will" (Leonard Cohen)

But “sin” is such an interesting word, an interesting concept.

The term "sin" is an ancient Greek word for when the archer's arrow missed the bull’s-eye of the target. Therefore, he who masters the bow is without sin.
(This is also the crux of the Hindu poem , The Bhagavad Gita where with Krishna's help, Arjuna learns to "master the bow" of himself).
Their degree of 'sin' was relative to their degree of inaccuracy. And as most archers miss the bull’s-eye most of the time, to “sin” was to be expected. :)
So, being human, we are all sinners in the sense that we are all expected to fall short of our aims at times.
Therefore Jesus' statement, “your sins are forgiven”, makes perfect sense in this poetical context.
Nowadays we interpret ‘sin’ as a bad thing but, in my opinion, it was never meant to be interpreted as such. It was merely the degree of inaccuracy we achieved while striving for a goal. No big deal, really.
Like you, I am also uncomfortable with the cop-out that states, “Jesus died for our sins”.
I wouldn’t suggest for a minute that “Jesus died for our sins”. I would suggest the poor guy got nailed up because people around him judged him in-accurately. They missed the target (sin). And in that sense he died for/because-of their “sin”-ful inaccuracies, to use their terminology.
But I will say that he died trying to live and preach his own Truth; and by living that way and preaching that message; it cost him his life.
His contemporaries/superiors, were not interested in his perspectives/understandings on how one might be able to connect with their God (Yogic Union or Communion), and they saw him as a threat to their established order of things.
I would argue that Jesus knew the inherent dangers of going against the status quo, and, perhaps foolishly, he did not follow his own sound advice:
“Do not throw your pearls (of wisdom) before swine, lest they trample them (your ideas) into the mud and turn on you to attack.”
You do not have to be a prophet to know many people will attack you if you suggest new ways of understanding/knowing your/their God!
That is still a hot topic. :(
Maybe Jesus and that character mentioned a few posts above, Pinocchio; you say:
“Like Pinocchio, Leonard seems to struggle with the thought that he deserves his existence as a real boy.”
That is a valid point you make, Manna. A Brilliant point, really.
Leonard, and maybe Jesus did too. Maybe he wanted to be a 'real boy' too?
…and it follows that maybe manna deserves her existence as a real girl; or to con-temporize things, a real human being, with her own View of her God and the world. I think it is a noble wish and an attainable goal.

I suggest you are on the right track, manna. Think for yourself. Follow your intuition. No pain, no gain, as they say.
But I also suggest you avoid the impulse to “throw your pearls…” before those who are not able or willing to hold that liquid, contemplative, Poetic view. They’ll “do you in” as we say over here in Oz.
Or maybe they just can't play that game of "fresh air thinking". It is too confronting for them. Too hard and fraught with danger, in their eyes. Too uncomfortable; not right for them. And that is their road, of the many roads to Rome.

Your Targets?
Your Intuition?
Their Fears?
Your little fears...

Thy Will be done. ;-)

I took my 'pearls' "to the pawn shop,
...but that don't make it junk"
(Leonard) ;-)

MatbellybuttongazerJ (and thanks for the name 8) )
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
MaryB
Posts: 4008
Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2008 5:40 am
Location: Columbus, Ohio USA

Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by MaryB » Thu Jul 19, 2012 11:00 pm

Manna wrote: And all the bad stuff that's happened in my life, I've been able to get over, or at least to get used to. I live in a great pool of love and comfort. I love my life. If it gets to the point where I am broken, maybe I will be able to accept Jesus, but I don't think so. The worse it gets for me, I think, I hope, the less likely I will be able to wish that suffering onto someone else. And I know that supposedly, my big buddy J would be in heaven already.
Manna,
In reading the above, the poem below immediately came to my mind. I apologize in advance for posting something with which you are probably/might be familiar, but this has always comforted me.

FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints.
Other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life
When I was suffering from anguish, sorrow, or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord, "You promised me, Lord,
That if I followed you, you would walk with me always.
But I noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
There have only been one set of prints in the sand.
Why, When I have needed you most, you have not been there for me?"
The Lord replied,
"The times when you have seen only one set of footprints
Is when I carried you."

Kindest regards,
Mary
1993 Detroit 2008 Kitchener June 2-Hamilton June 3 & 4-Vienna Sept 24 & 25-London RAH Nov 17 2009 NYC Feb 19-Grand Prairie Apr 3-Phoenix Apr 5-Columbia May 11-Red Rocks Jun 4-Barcelona Sept 21-Columbus Oct 27-Las Vegas Nov 12-San Jose Nov 13 2010 Sligo Jul 31 & Aug 1-LV Dec 10 & 11 2012 Paris Sept 30-London Dec 11-Boston Dec 16 2013 Louisville Mar 30-Amsterdam Sept 20
User avatar
mat james
Posts: 1813
Joined: Sat May 27, 2006 8:06 am
Location: Australia

Re: Book of Mercy #29-40

Post by mat james » Fri Jul 20, 2012 4:30 pm

"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
Manna
Posts: 1998
Joined: Fri Feb 09, 2007 6:51 am
Location: Where clouds go to die

Re: Book of Mercy #29-40

Post by Manna » Fri Jul 20, 2012 10:38 pm

Mary,
Yeah, I first read that when I was about 10. I know you mean well, and thanks for that, but it goes against just about everything I was trying to say. I want to be responsible for myself, and I don't want a god that takes that away from me. I don't want for what I feel are my abilities to learn, to handle things & to get better to be externalized. It doesn't work for me. I'm not saying you're wrong, just that it's wrong for me. If that kind of Jesus - one that carries you - works for you, then I'm happy for you. But there are 7 billion ways to be right on this one.

I was also thinking recently that I'm cool with being forgiven, and if there's a god, I hope it forgives me for whatever I might do that would offend it. But I don't think most of what I do matters a whole lot on God's scale. I'm less than a stitch in all the clothes it would ever wear. You may think this would leave me with no morals at all (nothing really matters, so why not torture a puppy?), but quite the contrary. My morals come from my close associations with other people, from my care for them, and I want to be kind to them (and to puppies). It's just that I feel all that comes from me, not God. I'm even willing to think that all the goodnesses we have come from God, and are our gifts. But once you give someone something, it's theirs. My goodness is mine.
MaryB
Posts: 4008
Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2008 5:40 am
Location: Columbus, Ohio USA

Re: Book of Mercy #29-40

Post by MaryB » Sat Jul 21, 2012 10:04 pm

Manna,

I selfishly jumped to conclusions which were mine, and after reading your original and subsequent post addressed to me, I see how wrong I was. I humbly apologize.
Manna wrote: My goodness is mine.
This succinctly said it all for me. I now get it. Thank you for correcting me.

All my best to you.

Kindest regards,
Mary
1993 Detroit 2008 Kitchener June 2-Hamilton June 3 & 4-Vienna Sept 24 & 25-London RAH Nov 17 2009 NYC Feb 19-Grand Prairie Apr 3-Phoenix Apr 5-Columbia May 11-Red Rocks Jun 4-Barcelona Sept 21-Columbus Oct 27-Las Vegas Nov 12-San Jose Nov 13 2010 Sligo Jul 31 & Aug 1-LV Dec 10 & 11 2012 Paris Sept 30-London Dec 11-Boston Dec 16 2013 Louisville Mar 30-Amsterdam Sept 20
Naveen
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Feb 24, 2019 12:14 am

Re: Book of Mercy #29-40

Post by Naveen » Sun Feb 24, 2019 12:16 am

This poem destroyed me. One of the only things I’ve read in years that made sense to me.
User avatar
abby
Posts: 243
Joined: Fri Jan 25, 2008 7:41 pm
Location: new mexico

Re: Book of Mercy #29-40

Post by abby » Sat Dec 05, 2020 6:28 pm

a theologian poet i like very much is facilitating a workshop on book of mercy today. from the website:

An Online Workshop Led by Pádraig Ó Tuama
with Co-Hosts Lanecia Rouse Tinsley and Sara Triana

Leonard Cohen, known as a singer and songwriter, began his life as a poet. His book Book of Mercy is an extraordinary engagement with prayer, psalmody, doubt, hate, failure, joy, art and living. Together we’ll take a journey into this book (if you want to buy a copy in advance, it’s so worthwhile), and with his bravery and artistry, will consider what language we wish to use in prayers this advent of this year. There’ll be some time for writing or reflecting, some time for hearing each other in a small intimate group online. In the hands of Leonard Cohen’s doubt about God and devotion to Language, we are in safe and wild hands.

Irish poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama’s work centers around themes of language, power, conflict and religion. He is the author of four books of poetry and prose: Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community, In the Shelter, Sorry for your Troubles, and Readings from the Books of Exile. He presents the podcast Poetry Unbound with On Being Studios, where he also has responsibilities in bringing art and theology into public and civic life. From 2014-2019 he was the leader of the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation community. He is based in Ireland.



https://www.holyfamilyhtx.org/hangouts/ ... nard-cohen

i almost didn’t post this for the cost of registration. the cost is suggested; it should be free.

happy holidays old friends.
User avatar
mat james
Posts: 1813
Joined: Sat May 27, 2006 8:06 am
Location: Australia

Re: Book of Mercy #29-40

Post by mat james » Thu Dec 10, 2020 2:12 am

Hi Abby,
Let's hope you have a wonderful time with Kindred Spirits.


O Solitude!

O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep, —
Nature's observatory—whence the dell,
Its flowery slopes, its river's crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
'Mongst boughs pavillion'd, where the deer's swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.
But though I'll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refin'd,
Is my soul's pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee


John Keats (at 18 years old!)

Mat
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
Post Reply

Return to “Leonard Cohen's poetry and novels”