Diane wrote:I like to contemplate that the waves in the ocean seem to move horizontally, but they really only move vertically...
The waves move horizontally, too —
when they are breaking.
Eihei Dôgen wrote a poem called "Zazen", which says something like this:
calm and clear,
pervading the floods of the mind:
the waves, even as they are breaking,
turn into light.
In "Samson in New Orleans", as on all of "Popular Problems", I see Leonard Cohen on the side of the oppressed, the ones "On the bridge of misery".
The City of Gretna on the West Bank of the Mississippi River received considerable press coverage when, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (late August 2005), displaced and dehydrated survivors who attempted to escape from New Orleans by walking over the Crescent City Connection bridge over the Mississippi River were turned back at gunpoint by City of Gretna Police, along with Crescent City Connection Police and Jefferson Parish Sheriff's deputies, who set up a roadblock on the bridge in the days following the hurricane.
And decidedly so. That does not exclude zen references, but I can't see the "housebuilder unmasked" here. Zen is zazen and samu, or, as the Roman Catholics have it, "ora et labora" (seated meditation and work —
or pray and work). Here I rather see Leonard Cohen at work.
"There's other ways to answer
That certainly is true
Me, I'm blind with death and anger
And that's no place for you"
Samson knows he's blind to the "other ways", his samu/labora is to "take this temple down".
(He is blind, physically blinded by the Philistines and mentally blinded by the situation in New Orleans, but he is not blind with ideology. He only seems
to be a kamikaze or a suicide-attacker —
in reality he says "I'll write you when it's over". And postal services from inside the grave tend to be frankly inefficient, even Samson knows that.)
Which other ways? —
My guess is that we'll learn that on "Impopular Solutions", as Leonard Cohen nicknames his next album for the time being.
My guess is that he is finishing a trilogy (Old Ideas —
Popular Problems —
"Impopular Solutions") answering his first three albums (which, in retrospective, seem like some kind of very loosely knit trilogy). Old Ideas, the spiritual album, opening the eyes "and then it's back to the marketplace"; Popular Problems taking place inside the marketplace and looking at the world as it is; and then "Impopular Solutions"? Possibly giving references to the law (not Law). Samu, labora, human law. At a universal scale. That's the only "other ways" I can see for now.
And returning to the topic: there indeed are quite some changes in Leonard Cohen's theological position. I'm not talking about his private convictions, of course, which I have no business to meddle with. I'm talking about positions he describes in his work, allowing clearly for a difference between the artist and his art.
In "I asked my father / I said father change my name", he is most certainly far away from the current prayer of the "Give me money, and give me health, and bust my neighbour's lawnmower" type. But there is no hint in there, either, of the tiny little word "please" (short for "if it please you"). And a personal godhead answers "I locked you in this body / I meant it as a kind of trial".
Alterity in duality, even: by means of duality. On eye-level more or less, one of the two with a bit more power. A polytheist pantheon reduced to only one god, but for the rest it seems pretty much the same mechanism.
Later, in "If it be Your Will", there is this "please". In a prominent position, too: it is the title of the prayer, not only some appendix. And it is not directed to a personal God. And basically, it claims neither answer nor action. It is accessible for one like me, an atheist, with no effort at all (strange as that may seem).
Pretty close to alterity in oneness. Somewhat hampered by despair as yet, but never mind.
In "He wants to write a love song (...) / But that isn't what I need him to complete", Buddha's "housebuilder", the "ox" running wild, breaking its path through the shrub with no direction, is seen at his senseless activity —
but already under remote control. "Give your cow a vast field, and it will be well herded", said Kodo Sawaki. Well-intentioned observation.
A child building sandcastles is not necessarily drowned in illusion.
In "O longing of the branches / To lift the little bud / O longing of the arteries / To purify the blood", are we really that far away from Gibran Khalil Gibran's "When you love you should not say, 'God is in my heart', but rather, 'I am in the heart of God'." ?
To my understanding, this Old Ideas kind of "longing" is not fully integrated into "Born in Chains" yet: "But all the ladders / Of the Night have fallen / Only darkness now / To lift the longing up".
And in "You got me singing", there is nothing left of "If it be your will / To let me sing" (except memory, and gratefulness). It is not the ego who is singing, with God's permission.
It is God ringing a bell that still can ring.
Or, as I said in the "First Impressions" thread: this is humankind singing.
Alterity beyond duality and oneness.
That makes me agree with the perception that "Born in Chains" is unfinished. Old Ideas and Popular Problems have gone on, "Born in Chains" has yet to catch up with them, with these changes in theological position.
And I trust that we are the ones who will get the benefit once again...