Book of Mercy #29-40

Debate on Leonard Cohen's poetry (and novels), both published and unpublished. Song lyrics may also be discussed here.
DBCohen
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby DBCohen » Thu Aug 28, 2008 5:09 am

Hi Mat and everyone,

Sorry for the long absence (been to Italy for the great concert in Lucca, then Israel, then much work on landing back in Kyoto). Let’s not give it up just yet, shall we? We’ve been going strong – with up and downs, its true – for quite a long time, and it would be a shame not to go all the way. I admit I often wanted to give it up myself when the participation declined or the atmosphere was bad, but since we’ve covered more than two thirds of the book, I feel it would be the right thing to post and discuss the rest of it, even with minimal participation. And hopefully, we’ll see some fresh blood and new faces joining in. So how about it?

DBC
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby mat james » Thu Aug 28, 2008 12:11 pm

good to see you back at the helm DB.
I trust the trip was fun and satisfying.

You were going to elaborate on things a few posts back, so I look forward to your further comments on #34 and #35.
Also, I seem to be repeating myself a bit; so I am keen to take a backward seat and give air time to a few other interested parties.
Fresh ideas and new perspectives (and accurate biblical/mythological/poetical references via yourself )are the order of the day/month.

Now, as you were saying...
and as perhaps others were thinking...

Regards, Mat.
Last edited by mat james on Mon Sep 01, 2008 5:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
DBCohen
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby DBCohen » Thu Aug 28, 2008 3:24 pm

Thanks, Mat. Yes, it was a great experience seeing LC live on stage, full of energy and so generous. I hope that you and all other fans who hadn’t seen him yet on this tour will have your chance in the near future.

Actually, I share your feeling of running a little out of steam in this discussion. It seems we’ve said most of what we had to say about the book, and we tend to repeat ourselves. And in fact, he speaks so very eloquently for himself. You read, for example, #35, and you see what he wants to say, and after analyzing so much already, you don’t feel the need to analyze any further. It’s all there. You can relate to the guilt and the sorrow, and as often with Leonard, it can actually uplift you beyond those guilt and sorrow. The beauty of his words is such a gift, that you feel better by just reading them.

So let’s not amass more guilt because of our inadequacy. Let’s just read those pieces one by one, and if we have something we must say we’ll say it, and if not – just reading them should be sufficient. For me, just typing out the words is an uplifting experience, so I’ll keep on doing it till the end of the book. I admit that when we’ve embarked on this project I had other expectations in mind; at some stages those expectations were met, and I’ve learned a lot from many people’s comments and responses. I wish that such an intensive experience could be maintained for the whole duration, but that did not happen. So while feeling a little sad about it, I still feel like going on. Anyone who wishes to go along is most welcome.
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby mat james » Mon Sep 01, 2008 4:29 am

(now, since I am into repeating myself)

Mat's double-distilled soliloquy on #34

In his “zen” encounter(s) Leonard must have toiled with this principal of soul and god-annihilation:
so, paradoxically, strangely, even in the darkest hours of Buddha enlightenment,
as the Buddha within enlightened towards no-thing-ness; God moved in for the rescue!
It is a leap from eternal non-being into Eternal Bieng ; probably a Hindu paradox: (Buddha was a Hindu. Is that a paradox?)
from "unwept"-autism to fear
A leap from the deserts of Buddha's ego annihilation to a burning, soulful fear of God's judgement. ( "Though I am unwept, it is your judgment parches me." )
.
.
.
.
So, to use familiar terminology,
Leonard saunters back to "boogie street"
He's struggled enough,
"I finally got my orders,
...I bite my lip.
I buy what I’m told:" (In my secret life)
and into/onto Popeyesque acceptance,
I yam what I yam and what I am is back on Boogie street, (and seemingly, happy to be there ).

Lyrics that sum it up."I kneel to dry your feet". (surrender/acceptance/lovingly giving/appreciating)
http://www.metrolyrics.com/boogie-stree ... cohen.html

mat.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Manna
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby Manna » Tue Sep 02, 2008 11:53 pm

DBCohen wrote:Let’s just read those pieces one by one, and if we have something we must say we’ll say it, and if not – just reading them should be sufficient. For me, just typing out the words is an uplifting experience, so I’ll keep on doing it till the end of the book. I admit that when we’ve embarked on this project I had other expectations in mind; at some stages those expectations were met, and I’ve learned a lot from many people’s comments and responses. I wish that such an intensive experience could be maintained for the whole duration, but that did not happen. So while feeling a little sad about it, I still feel like going on. Anyone who wishes to go along is most welcome.
That makes me very happy.
DBCohen
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby DBCohen » Wed Sep 03, 2008 2:52 am

Thanks, Manna.

And, Mat, very nicely put.
I appreciate your presenting of the Buddha/Hindu eternal non-being on the one side, and the Eternal Being of God and his mercy on the other. You call it a paradox, but is it really? Aren’t these two different possibilities which exclude each other? Two opposite ways of viewing reality, that cannot be reconciled? In our New Age era many wish to take a little from here and a little from there, anything goes as long as it is “spiritual”. But if you take these things seriously, can you really have one foot here and one foot there? LC often said that Zen, or Buddhism generally, is not something he understands or really tries to go deep into; he simply wanted the discipline of the monastery life. So while some people may take him as an example for New Age eclecticism, in fact he had things clearly separated, between the Zen discipline he was doing for discipline’s sake, and the Jewish tradition he remained committed to. Perhaps I’m oversimplifying things, but that’s what I’ve gathered from what he said. He is, of course, the epitome of tolerance and coexistence, but he is also in favor of taking traditions seriously and committing oneself to the one which is yours.
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby mat james » Mon Sep 08, 2008 12:08 pm

Buddha’s Genius
“I appreciate your presenting of the Buddha/Hindu eternal non-being on the one side, and the Eternal Being of God and his mercy on the other.”
DB

Only the Buddha sits on the non-being side DB, definitely not the “Hindu”.
The Hindu god (in particular Brahma) goes on the “Eternal Being of God” side of that equation and Non-being as well. An "Omni-thingy :D "
In a way the Buddha separates “church and state” or “god and reason”. So, for me at least, he shows how a human being can focus on how to lead a meaningful and happy life without having to rely on divine edicts. This was Buddha’s genius; he established a practice (meditation) and way of life that was both beautiful and practical without being tied in any way to a divinity. Therefore, pre-conceived prejudices towards a particular deity were and still are null and void, so to speak.
And yet he was a Hindu.(and that's the "Omni-thingy" paradox.
Any way, that is my take on things, for what it is worth.
“…anything goes as long as it is “spiritual”.But if you take these things seriously, can you really have one foot here and one foot there? LC often said that Zen, or Buddhism generally, is not something he understands or really tries to go deep into; he simply wanted the discipline of the monastery life.”
DB

I’ll let the carpenter answer that one,
“ My kingdom is not of this world”
“Render unto Caesar that which is Caesars and render unto God that which is Gods”.
I think we do have a foot in both camps DB.
I can see that Leonard has his feet firmly in both camps too.
But I am about to go ‘round in circles again;
So keep up the good work,
Mat.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby mat james » Mon Nov 03, 2008 2:50 pm

Let’s not give it up just yet, shall we? We’ve been going strong – with up and downs, its true – for quite a long time, and it would be a shame not to go all the way.
Did you write this DB ?
By the way DB, I have booked my tickets to see Leonard (on his Pacific Tour) at the Rochford Winery gig, in Victoria. This is the first of his Australian performances.
I am taking 3 people with me, one being a "Mystic Poet", P R Eason, and, two beautiful women 8) . He (P R Eason) is the guy who introduced me to Leonard's music/poetry many moons ago.
He wrote this poem below which I placed on the forum awhile ago. You may like to have a read.

viewtopic.php?f=16&t=11115

I look forward to you continuing this thread Doran, in your own time ;-)
Regards, Mat.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby DBCohen » Mon Nov 03, 2008 3:34 pm

Mat,

Good to hear from you. In fact, my conscious has been bothering me for quite a while for not keeping my word. Yes, I was very busy with this and that, but that’s not a real excuse. So, to compensate, here are two installments in one posting.
II. 36

Though I don’t believe, I come to you now, and I lift my doubt to your mercy. Under the scorn of my own pride I open my mouth to ask you again: Make an end to these harsh preparations. I made a crown for myself with your blessings, and you locked me down to self-mockery. You said, ‘Study the world that is without me, this wild degree of solitude.’ I covered up the path of desire and I overthrew the bridge of tears, and I prepared the wilderness on which the Accuser walks. The Accuser has no song, and he has no tears. Speak to my words. Give this ghost the form of tears, that he move from nothing to sorrow, into Creation, even winter, even loss, that he have weight, that he be placed. Discover him in tears and make a place for his longing. Behold him in your court, one who uphold the throne of praises. Where have I been? I gave the world to the Accuser. Where do I go? I go to ask for pardon from the Most High.
I especially like the first sentence here, which may serve as a concise summery of the whole book. Another point: the sentence beginning with “Give this ghost…” has two ungrammatical uses: “move” and “have” instead of “moves” and “has”. What may be the reason for that?
II.37

It is all around me, the darkness. You are my only shield. Your name is my only light. What love I have, your law is the source, this dead love that remembers only its name, yet the name is enough to open itself like a mouth, to call down the dew, and drink. O dead name that through your mercy speaks to the living name, mercy harkening to the will that is bent toward it, the will whose strength is its pledge to you – O name of love, draw down the blessing of completion on the man whom you have cut in half to know you.
Not much new material here, but still, how beautiful.
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby mat james » Sat Nov 15, 2008 1:34 pm

I'm doing that which I don't always do well:
I'm waiting for others to have a say.

MatbbgJ
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
Cate
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby Cate » Sun Nov 16, 2008 3:18 pm

It is all around me, the darkness. You are my only shield
The shield is interesting.
At the beginning of the book N wakes one night with two shields - bitterness and hope and later he seems to pray to the shield of Abraham to comfort him. You earlier in the book had been a shield of falling and a giver of shields of loneliness. Now N is saying that, You is his only shield. I think that this shows a man that is starting to come to some kind of resolve. I also think it shows amazing faith considering that N has just admitted not to believe.

side note

bitterness and hope I understood - shield of Abraham I had to look up.
The Shield of Abraham

The eight "wings" ... This is spoken of as the ability to gaze "diagonally," that is, not to be deluded by the direct experience of physical reality, but to perceive the inner reality "behind" it.
- so says the jewelry store that sells pendents.

the design on the front of the book, has eight points (if you include the two that point inwards). I'm sure you've already discussed it, but I just got it, as I never knew what a Shield of Abraham was before.
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby DBCohen » Sun Nov 16, 2008 4:34 pm

Cate,

LC first titled this book “The Name”, and then “The Shield”, before choosing “Book of Mercy” as the title. And indeed, both nouns appear along the book in various forms and synonyms. See also in I.4 “the two shields of bitterness and love”, and our discussion of it there (next week it will be the second anniversary for our BoM project! When we started I predicted it will take us one to two years to go through the book, but since we’ve run out of steam in the second year, it’s going to take longer than that. But never mind, as long as we keep going…).

I was not aware of the “Shield of Abraham” definition as supplied by pendent sellers. Interesting. For me, and for LC too, I’m sure, it’s one of the epithets of God in the daily Jewish prayer.
Cate
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby Cate » Wed Nov 19, 2008 6:52 pm

DBCohen wrote:Cate,

LC first titled this book “The Name”, and then “The Shield”, before choosing “Book of Mercy” as the title. And indeed, both nouns appear along the book in various forms and synonyms. See also in I.4 “the two shields of bitterness and love”, and our discussion of it there (next week it will be the second anniversary for our BoM project! When we started I predicted it will take us one to two years to go through the book, but since we’ve run out of steam in the second year, it’s going to take longer than that. But never mind, as long as we keep going…).
I'm glad he choose "Book of Mercy", although the "The Name" might have been a good choice as well. Yes, I did notice that he used both throughout the book and I actually used Greg's word list to find the different prayers that included that word (that's useful list btw). Thanks for the reference to the "two shields of bitterness and love" discussion, that was interesting - if I have time at Christmas I'd like to go through and read these threads more completely.

My specific interest with this prayer was that he only had one shield left – that of You, that he had perhaps given up the other shields of bitterness and hope and so on. (I realize my understanding of shield might be off) My thought is that shield kind of means belief or attribute, but that it also acts to separate man in some way. To give up all of these shields (even if they were given by You) and only have You as a shield would mean a lot less weight to carry and a lot less separating you from You or anything else for that matter. That’s just what I was reading and what I found interesting because I could see it being applicable in my own life.

--------------------------------------------------------------------
I guess this is a side note again as it doesn't have a direct relation to the current passages.
I was not aware of the “Shield of Abraham” definition as supplied by pendent sellers. Interesting.
:D - well there you go - something new, always trust somebody who wants to sell you something shiny.
For me, and for LC too, I’m sure, it’s one of the epithets of God in the daily Jewish prayer.
Yes, I saw this when I was looking it up - you had a link someplace that explained the process of the daily prayers as well - very interesting. But it didn't explain what 'shield of Abraham' meant,at least not in a way that I could understand, it just stated that it was said during the prayers of the day.
This link was useful for me.
[DOC]
http://www.vbm-torah.org/archive/18/04avot-2.doc - it basically explains that god was Abraham's shield when he was completely alone.
http://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/W ... ha_jts.htm This site suggests that it's Gods promise to protect.
I still like the jewlery merchants def'n though. It seems to me that this must have been true for Abraham. He went into this battle on his own volition without god telling him to, without scriptures telling him to. The odds terribly against him and others (I think) had already failed, but he ignored these physical realities because he could see something deeper - his guts/instincts were telling him something deeper and without god - to his knowledge, he acted. It was after the battle that God told him that he would be his shield,(sorry if I got that a bit wrong) it seems that the story is telling us that god was always his shield as Abraham acted on faith of his conviction.
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby DBCohen » Thu Nov 20, 2008 3:08 am

Cate,

Thank you very much for your illuminating contribution. Please keep it up! I liked your interpretation of the Abraham story, but I think you can also say that he went into battle because he felt it was his duty, without knowing whether God will protect him or not. As you say, God’s promise comes later.

There’s more I’d like to say in this matter, but unfortunately, just when the discussion is reviving, I have to excuse myself. I’m on my way to board a plane (actually heading in your general direction, going to New England, sweet New England, only I dread the freezing weather awaiting me there). I hope to rejoin the discussion in about ten days. Keep warm.

DBC
Cate
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby Cate » Thu Nov 20, 2008 6:42 am

You don't like the cold - oh no you're heading there at the wrong time of year.
Myself I'm very happy because we have a nice blanket of white covering the grass right now.

Have yourself a good trip and remember to wear layers.

Cate

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