THE BUTCHER (song)

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
chelseamichael
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THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby chelseamichael » Wed Feb 18, 2009 5:30 pm

I am wondering if anyone can break down he song of 'The Butcher' for me. I have a basic understanding of it, but I am sure it goes deeper than I imagine or can wrap my brain around. Thanks, Chelsea Butcher
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mat james
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby mat james » Sat Feb 21, 2009 2:51 am

The Butcher

I came upon a butcher,
he was slaughtering a lamb,
I accused him there
with his tortured lamb.
He said, "Listen to me, child,
I am what I am
and you, you are my only son."
Well, I found a silver needle,
I put it into my arm.
It did some good,
did some harm.
But the nights were cold
and it almost kept me warm,
how come the night is long
I saw some flowers growing up
where that lamb fell down;
was I supposed to praise my Lord,
make some kind of joyful sound
He said, "Listen, listen to me now,
I go round and round
and you, you are my only child."
Do not leave me now,
do not leave me now,
I'm broken down
from a recent fall.
Blood upon my body
and ice upon my soul,
lead on, my son, it is your world.

Leonard Cohen.



Hi chelseamichael. Strangely enough, I have not noticed this song before, but it looks/sounds very interesting.

I can make a few suggestions, but that is all they can be, of course.
When playing this game of searching for meaning/s I like to look at the symbolic words first and interpret what they may be symbolising, then round off .

Symbols:
• butcher: some chopper of meat and life: (God is a/the Butcher in this scene.)
• lamb: the victim
• torture: the process
• child: relativity

• I am: old testament self-definition of god
• only son: christ/christ consciousness/consciousness derived from the "One".
• needle: nails/ syringe
• night: lost soul in search of gnosis/knowing god intimately
• flowers: new life/good and happy things/children
• lamb fell down: There are many "lamb" references in the bible, but this one fits sweetly into the context of this song; (Revelation 5: 1-14) (http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Revelation+5:1-14) ‘...Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!...’
• Lord
• round and round: life goes on: “I am” that life and since I have only one life (only one son), I recycle you, always.
• recent fall: human consciousness evolving to “reason”. “...the fruit of knowledge of good and evil...”. (Perhaps differentiating from the more ancient mythic fall of Lucifer.)


This is the story I see:

Leonard is attempting to interpret Jesus/Christ in the context of the Jewish mythic vision.
Leonard is also trying to place himself somewhere on this mythic butcher-table as well.
God slaughters/butchers his kids from almost-Isaac through to Jesus and Leonard/the every-day individual; and yet in the same breath He (god) says “you are my only son”.

The “recent fall” and the therefore associated more ancient fall ( Lucifer) are the disintegration of ONENESS (I am who Am....God)
Therefore the argument as I see it is that God disintegrates into multiplicity, Nature/humanity/individuality, Abe, Isaac, Jesus, you, me and Leonard and so on. "Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,
‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb "be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever!’



In summary:
This song is singing to me that individuality is nothing more than the “I am” going “round and round”. Or as the Hindu might say, re-incarnate-ing.
Leonard, like that other Lamb, (butchered by life) re-cognises/understands/suggests his place in the scheme of things: He is inseparable from the One (god). There is nowhere else for this seeker (Leonard) to go, but to re-cognition of inherent ONENESS.
The “only son” is that divided/individuating ONENESS.....self-realising through going round and round in spatial/time; Life.
Or to say it differently; God knows that God is "I am Who am" and the rest of us, in a round about way, will come to the conclusion that we also are "I am Who am". (That Thou Art....as the Hindu may say via the Bhagavad-Gita ).

Perhaps this will help a little or at least get the ball/soul rolling “round and round”. :lol:

Mat James. (MatbbgJ)
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Gullivor
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby Gullivor » Fri Feb 27, 2009 5:58 pm

That is what the song is about Matt.

But in the darkness can they see?
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mat james
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby mat james » Sat Feb 28, 2009 2:22 am

But in the darkness can they see?
may not be with the eyes,
maybe Xray
maybe sonar...

I wonder what dolphins "see" with their sonar'd intuition?
How does a termite see heavy rain 3 months hence?
We know they do as they build their termite mound higher than the future flood level.

...and down in that darkness
some little ants, see.
Last edited by mat james on Thu Mar 19, 2009 12:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby Cate » Sun Mar 01, 2009 4:09 pm

I like reading how other people see things, it’s like squinting your eyes trying to see and the old lady in the picture and then boom the young woman turns into the old one.
I love silver needle – I initially saw it as a syringe but the fact it was silver was important. It also made me think of the type of needle you might use in quilting - creating something out of other things, joining things together. Now I see it can also be a nail through the wrist.

flowers
BALLAD

He pulled a flower
out of the moss
and struggled past soldiers
to stand at the cross.

He dipped the flower
into a wound
And hoped that a garden
would grow in his hand.

The hanging man shivered
at this gentle thrust
and ripped his flesh
from the flower’s touch,

and said in a voice
they had not heard,
‘Will petal find roots
In the wounds where I bleed?

‘Will minstrils learn songs
from a tongue which is torn
and sick be made whole
through rents in my skin?’

The people knew something
like a god had spoken
and stared with fear
at the nails they had driven.

And they fell on the man
with spear and with knife
to honour the voice
with a sacrifice.

O the hanging man
had words for the crowd
but he was tired
And the prayers were loud.

He thought of islands
alone in the sea
and sea water bathing
dark roots of each tree;

of tidal waves lunging
over the land,
over these crosses
these hills and this man.

He thought of towns
and fields of wheat,
of men and this man
but he could not speak.

O they hid two bodies
behind the stone;
day became night
and the crowd went home.

Leonard Cohen from Let Us Compare Mythologies
John Etherington
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby John Etherington » Sun Mar 01, 2009 6:42 pm

Hi Mat,

That's an excellent interpretation of the song, considering that it's not one that you're familiar with. What you say makes perfect sense. I've known the song for forty years, but was only seventeen when I listened to it mostly, and was not able to fully understand the song at that time. I just absorbed the words and the mood of the song. On a mundane level, I've tended to think it as being about the old and young criticising each other without fully understanding the reasons why each other are doing what they do. Thus, Leonard, as a vegetarian in the late Sixties, criticises the butcher for slaughtering the lamb, while similarly, the butcher would not understand his experimentation with heroin (which I believe he did; this being highly likely since he was hanging out with women like Nico and Janis Joplin). The song would be an interesting one to compare with "Story of Isaac", which is also on the "Songs From a Room" album. Anyway, your interpretation of the song is particularly relevant for me at this time, because what you say fits significantly with a talk I heard recently on the necessity of reincarnation within Christianity (given by a follower of Rudolf Steiner).

All the best, John E
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mat james
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby mat james » Mon Mar 02, 2009 6:38 am

Hi John, Cate, Gullivor, and Chelsea,
To your comments John;
the early Christian church/groups/gnostics were pretty big on re-incarnation and among the literature available that has come to light post Steiner are the Nag Hammadi texts: (http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/nhl.html).

"Yet to know oneself, at the deepest level, is simultaneously to know God; this is the secret of gnosis."
(http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline ... agels.html)
Even Thomas and Mary Magdalene have their say among these gospels, which is a beautiful thing, as these were JC's close friends.

The general argument of /for re-incarnation is that it is a negative process. It is something we do through ignorance.
One continues to re-incarnate as long as one remains ignorant of their intrinsic form.
To the Buddhist that intrinsic form is "nothingness"
To the Hindu it is Brahma (that thou art) Atman knows (gnostic cognition)it is Brahma
and to the early Christian gnostic/mystic, that intrinsic form was God, via Christ consciousness (the only son of the father).

...and Jesus said "Ye are all gods to whom the word of God (logos) is given.

And I suppose the re-incarnating argument follows that If you have not been given the word or experienced "I am Who AM !" then one has not yet made the grade, so to speak, and returns to life re-incarnating "round and round", as Leonard puts it in The Butcher song.

Re-incarnation...???
'Who' knows :!: :lol:

Regards, Mat.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby John Etherington » Tue Mar 03, 2009 11:20 am

Hi Mat,

Thanks for your response, which makes things pretty clear. I'm familiar with "The Nag Hammadi Library" and "The Gnostic Gospels", even though I've never read the full texts. I believe in continued existence, which may include some sort of reincarnation, though I hope it's not always to this "vale of tears"!

All the best, John E
imaginary friend
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby imaginary friend » Wed Mar 04, 2009 12:15 am

Hello John E and Mat J,

I'm very fond of this 'vale of tears'; so many layers to explore, such a beautiful and dangerous place... I guess I'd make a terrible buddhist.
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby Violet » Thu Mar 05, 2009 9:50 pm

.... no, you wouldn't make a terrible anything, Imaginary Friend... Just passing through... an interesting conversation, which I'd like to re-read more carefully later when I have the time...

my best to all of you (oh, and I myself am on the fence as to this vale of tears... it's a wondrous place at times... yet at times so terribly trying)...

v i o l e t
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Diane
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby Diane » Fri Mar 06, 2009 12:01 am

Hi Imaginary Friend. You would probably make a good Buddhist, by that criteria, as Buddhism encourages you to embrace all experience, whatever it may be, equally the pain and the pleasure; 'to experience life more as an adventure than as a nightmare', as Ezra Bayda says in Zen Heart.
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby imaginary friend » Sat Mar 07, 2009 10:06 pm

Hi Vi and Di,

Namaste, and thank you for the benedictions.

I consider that it is my attachment to this vale of tears that would disqualify me as a Buddhist. I treasure the natural world and the art(ifical) world. Language (read or spoken) is the blessed connection. If I was blind I could still hear it spoken. If deaf, could at least read the words.

Finding no home in the Mean Ol' White Guy with the Long Beard religion I was raised in, the gentleness of Buddhism, the disciplining of ones own self, rather than finding fault in the other, resonates. Buddhist philosophy abounds in the words of Jesus. I think that, in LC's songs, Jesus is seen as simply a man, like LC; and men are just as much 'sons of god (or the universe or whatever)' as Jesus.
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby Diane » Mon Mar 09, 2009 3:45 pm

Hi Imaginary,

To me, Zen is about about living the question (the question being something like Who Am I?), even though I can't live the answer, to borrow words from Rainer Maria Rilke. (Also, one day we will have to give up all of our attachments – when we face our own death – so there’s something to be said for practicing for that momentous event.) Anyhow, your comment about making a bad Buddhist attracted my attention because I have made similar comments about myself a few times:-)
Finding no home in the Mean Ol' White Guy with the Long Beard religion I was raised in, the gentleness of Buddhism, the disciplining of ones own self, rather than finding fault in the other, resonates. Buddhist philosophy abounds in the words of Jesus. I think that, in LC's songs, Jesus is seen as simply a man, like LC; and men are just as much 'sons of god (or the universe or whatever)' as Jesus.
Buddhism appeals to me far more than any other religion (actually it is not really a religion). Christianity, and, I imagine, all religions, began with one person's deep spiritual understanding *. Then came the rules and the regulations and the different sects and interpretations (including in Buddhism). I think J Krishnamurti had it best sussed when he said, 'Truth is a pathless land and cannot be approached by any religion or method, only through meditation, and the mirror of relationship.' (not exact quote)

All the best.

How can we not be attached
After all we're only human
The only way then is to never come back
Except I wouldn't want that would you
If we weren't together again
In Tir Na Nog

(Van Morrison)

* that Leonard Cohen has also had, as you say.
chelseamichael
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby chelseamichael » Wed Mar 18, 2009 11:12 pm

I would like to thank everyone for delving into my question. I have a lot to think about. I was out of town for a while so I didn't get a chance to read everyone's response. Of course part of the reason I care is not only because I love Leonard but also because my last name is Butcher and I appreciate that coincidence. Thank you all for taking the time out of your day to answer me.---Chelsea Butcher
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby ~greg » Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:50 am

I have been working on this for a couple of days now.
And I don't know where I am with it.
But my father is 93, and not doing well, and I don't think
I'm going to have much more time to waste on this.
So I'll post it as is, and just hope that it makes some sense.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


I have a problem. I really like Mat James.
But I really really really really really hate his approach to this song!

I hate it so much that for a couple of days now I have been working
on a post in which I excoriate him for it, as pleasantly as I can.

However, as necessary and urgent as it is to do that,
that part of my response is currently stuck between two
different sequencings of a couple of subclauses, or whatever.
And I've decided that for now it's best for me to just post
a precis of my dreadfully dull, but 100% correct explanation
of the song, and then maybe post the rest later.

~~~~~~~~~
Ok.

The most germane comment by far so far was John Etherington's
The song would be an interesting one to compare with "Story of Isaac",
which is also on the "Songs From a Room" album.
Well.
If you've never noticed it before, then it may come as a shock
to realize that there is no mention at all in Leonard Cohen's "Story of Isaac"
of any lamb (or ram), nor the slightest hint in it anywhere about the
historically single most famous "happy" denouement of them all.
("Happy" in quotes because, obviously, not so for the ram.
Which is an important point that no child could ever fail to notice.)

In fact, the absence of a ram in Leonard's "Story of Isaac"
is such a glaring omission, and it's so obviously filled by
the lamb in "The Butcher", that I have no doubt at all
that Leonard Cohen's original working title for "The Butcher"
was "Story of Isaac, Part Deux".

In any case, the two songs really should be considered an inseparable dyad.

~~

Before he was led astray by Mat (who will be symbolized by Lucifer
in my upcoming post) John already knew the correct approach to all of Leonard
Cohen's songs. (Namely, listen to them for the proper biblical duration of 40 years
before attempting any comment at all.) And he had also arrived at what is essentially
the correct understanding of the gist of this one -
John Etherington wrote:I've known the song for forty years, but was only seventeen
when I listened to it mostly, and was not able to fully understand the song at that time.
I just absorbed the words and the mood of the song. On a mundane level, I've tended
to think it as being about the old and young criticising each other without fully
understanding the reasons why each other are doing what they do.
Never in history, as far as I know, have successive generations
had a harder time understanding each other than in the 1960s.
(Perhaps because of WWII, a supposedly "just war", that was
therefore followed by very little tolerance for "readjustment problems".
(Not that they've been dealt any better since then. See eg "In the Valley of Elah".))
And "The Butcher" is as succinct and powerful a summary of all those conversations
and confrontations as any I know of. It is indeed a dialogue between the generations.

But it is also a dialogue between Leonard and his father.
Arguments about the war (Vietnam) between fathers and sons
were emblematic of the times. But Leonard was not, strictly speaking,
a member of the Pepsi Generation. (He was not threatened by the draft, etc.)
Nevertheless, as the first born and only son of a Cohen (or Kohanim)
he could and did use that as his way in to relate to the popular
contemporary arguments of situation ethics and plain common sense
proposed by his younger generation audience, against the arguments
of obligation to country and tradition ("I go round and round")
proposed by their parents
"I had a very Messianic childhood," he recalls.
"I was told I was a descendant of Aaron, the high priest.
My parents actually thought we were Cohen - the real thing.
I was expected to grow into manhood leading other men."
- Richard Goldstein's article,
- Village Voice, 1967

- http://www.webheights.net/speakingcohen/villv67.htm
(aside: "I was expected to grow into manhood leading other men"
=> "lead on my son, it is your world", etc.)

Patrice Clos' site, "Diamonds in the Lines, The Songs Prologues"
(here: http://perso.orange.fr/pilgraeme/ )
is helpful about this. Not directly for "The Butcher", ("I couldn't find a prologue for that song",)
but indirectly via some of Cohen's comments about "Story of Isaac"
(here: http://pagesperso-orange.fr/pilgraeme/s ... _isaac.htm )
eg
...
I sing this song for the butchers and the victims. (Stockholm 03/04/72)
...
There is a place where the generations often meet.
A very curious place. It's generally an altar or a chopping block.
This is a song for my father. (Paris 20/10/74 )
...
~~~
THE BUTCHER


The title refers to at least 3 distinct things.
(I'll mention the 3rd later.)

First it refers to the "you" in the lines
You who stand above them now,
your hatchets blunt and bloody,
from the "Story of Isaac". These are the same butchers
that Dylan refers to as "Masters of War", --the "you" in
You hide in your mansion
While the young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud
Second, it refers to Leonard's own father. But obviously in a very different sense.
After the destruction of the Second Temple and the suspension of sacrificial offerings,
the formal role of priests in sacrificial services came to an end.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohen
And I don't know if they still have a role in the kosher slaughter of animals, or not.
But in any case, for anyone who has read the Pentateuch, (or 1st 5 books of the
Old Testament if you prefer,) using "Butcher" as a metaphor for "Priest" or "Kohanim"
is clear, natural, and inevitable. And perhaps not even particularly derogatory.

In fact Leonard calling his father "butcher" in this context, in that sense,
is really just good natured ribbing him for his claim to be a true descendant
of Aaron. And it gets the appropriately good natured shoulder-shrug
response from his father: ---"I am what I am".
(Remember, they're both drunk! "We stopped to drink some wine.
Then he threw the bottle over. / Broke a minute later".
- father-son "quality time".)



AND IT REALLY IS "WHAT IT IS" IS!

I know I promised this would be a quick concise summary
of one reasonable interpretation of "The Butcher". And so
it would be inappropriate here to go into into all the reasons
why certain other interpretations are, let's just say a little
less reasonable. Nevertheless, "seeing as how" I am what I am,
and can't help it, "like it or lump it", I have no choice but to
confront immediately and head on that monstrously mephistophelian
misinterpretation of the line "I am what I am" in terms of Exodus 3:14,
that has been making the rounds lately, because it is the keystone
to this whole Tacoma Narrows Bridge type catastrophy of an interpretation
of the song that has been ossilatting more and more wildly out of control here.

In brief
Exodus 3:14
And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM:
and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel,
I AM hath sent me unto you.
(aside: It may be that "I am what I am" is an incorrect,
but a better translation of the Hebrew than is King James'
"I am that I am". And these are interesting subjects.
But none of this matters for what I'll be saying here.)

It can't be claimed that Leonard Cohen was unaware
of the existence of Exodus 3:14 when he wrote "The Butcher".
(More likely it was tattooed on his genes before he was born.)

And while it is as unlikely as it would be pointless,
(which is the meaning of "in vain",) it would not be
physically impossible for him to refer to God by His
names, such as "I am that I am" or "I am what I am".

Did he not say after all:
"You say I took the name in vain / I don't even know the name.
But if I did, well really, what's it to you?"

However, in the specific context of "The Butcher",
for LC to want "I am what I am" to be interpreted
in that way is, as I will prove, as close to physically
impossible as finding Rush Limbaugh sitting very still
with earphones on, listening to Leonard Cohen.

Now, it's true that Leonard has frequently, and sometimes extendedly,
referred to Jesus in his writings. In fact in this very thread Cate
has quoted a poem of his, "BALLAD", that can be interpreted
in no other way.

Curious was the way that Cate quoted the poem, with a little isolated
word 'flowers' immediately preceding it, and no other explanation.
I don't say it was cowardly of her, - a way of getting out of
any possible argument about it. I say, rather, that it was a lovely
and poetic way of her to gently direct our attention to the fact
that lines like these in the poem --
He dipped the flower / into a wound
And hoped that a garden / would grow in his hand.

The hanging man shivered / at this gentle thrust
and ripped his flesh / from the flower’s touch,

and said in a voice / they had not heard,
‘Will petal find roots / In the wounds where I bleed?

‘Will minstrils learn songs / from a tongue which is torn
and sick be made whole / through rents in my skin?’

can shed light on lines like these in "The Butcher" -
I saw some flowers growing up / where that lamb fell down;
was I supposed to praise my Lord, / make some kind of joyful sound?
And they certainly do.

~~

But I already knew exactly what Cohen meant by
"I saw some flowers growing up where that lamb fell down;
Was I supposed to praise my Lord, make some kind of joyful sound?"

It means the same thing as "Even damnation is poisoned with rainbows,"
except going at it from the opposite direction. To rephrase it in as pedestrian
a way as I can: when the dove returns with the olive leaf in its beak,
and the masses are gawking and partying under the rainbow,
there will always be that small minority of us spoilsports
(10%ers, we're called) who say "Yeah, sure, that's all fine
and dandy, and lovely, and good and all. But I am sorry.
I just can't seem to forget that THE ENTIRE WORLD
WAS JUST SNUFFED OUT!"

This "poison from within" mind-set, as I used to call it in my journals
when I was kid, first struck me when I realized that I was enjoying
watching the 1959 movie "The Diary of Anne Franke", and then
suddenly realized that Hitler may very well have been responsible
for generating a greater number of entertaining movies than
anyone else in history. At moments like that I could appreciate
(although not subscribe to) the notion which strikes some people
sometimes, that all books and movies ought to be burnt.
It's for the same reason that a lot of people think that
all pornography should be banned. Which is because,
in a sense, that's what it all is!

Of course the question as to why we do enjoy watching
tragedies, is classic. And there is arguably no more problematic
an instance of the paradox than what's called "The Passion of The Christ".
It's the subject of LC's poem "BALLAD", and it is a subject that LC
has often alluded to. But it's a subject that, after all, is part and parcel
of our common Western cultural heritage. And the point which
has to be made by someone here is that very many people
have taken an interest in it, and have alluded to it, who never,
ever, subscribed to, and never felt the remotest temptation
to subscribe to, any version whatsoever of the "Apostles' Creed".

Which even includes those who may have lied, but who "came to God
in secret / and though they left him nourished they would not say
who healed", because, and I know that this is very hard for some
people to accept, they just aren't the same thing.
1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
5. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again.
6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
10. the forgiveness of sins,
11. the resurrection of the body,
12. and the life everlasting.
13. Amen.
We must remember that the poem "BALLAD" is from a book
of poems entitled "Let Us Compare Mythologies". And that
while it is about Jesus, there isn't the slightest suggestion
in it that "Jesus was the Son of God". Of course even while
He was alive there were those who said He was the son of God.
And He may, or He may not, have Himself said so.
It's all part of the story. And it gets the appropriately
quick nod in LC's comparison of mythologies poem -
The people knew something
like a god had spoken
But those lines aren't an affirmation of the specifically and
uniquely Christian theological doctrine, the second assertion
in the Apostles' Creed. Looked at objectively, they are much
more like a denial of it.

Whereas if you interpret the line "I am what I am" in "The Butcher"
as being a reference to Exodus 3:14, --ie, as one of the many names
of the unnamable God, -- then you will necessarily have to interpret
"my only son" as meaning Jesus, as in the Apostles' Creed.
If the premise is granted, then the corollary is inescapable.
And then also by the same strict logic you will necessarily
have to interpret things like "silver needle" as a nail of the crucifixion!
And if that doesn't strike you, as it certainly does strike me,
as a perfect reductio ad absurdum argument against
that initial interpretation of "I am what I am",
then let me ask you this: Why?

Why would Leonard Cohen write like that?
Why would he embed these little isolated fragments of an alien theological
doctrine in his writings? These little secret messages and puzzles
for only the cognoscenti to decode, and then try to sell them as just songs?

Why would the man who wrote so explicitly
"I stuck a silver needle in my arm / it did some good / it did some harm",
(which -- with the exception of The Velvet Underground, who got
no air-play at all -- was exceedingly bold for the time)
be so coy and furtive and cowardly about revealing himself
to be a Christian, if that's what he was?

That Leonard Cohen is a secret closet Christian
is a claim that you just know some people would love to,
or die to, believe.
(I don't think that Mat is one of them.
But that's another post.)

And I am sorry for them. But "I am what I am" in "The Butcher"
is nothing but an extremely common expression that many people
often say without the slightest intent or fear that it will be
mistaken as a pointless reference to Exodus 3:14.
Most of them don't even know the reference.

Which of course can't said for Leonard Cohen.
So I think that it is probable that he did waste
two or three seconds worrying that the line might
be misinterpreted that way. And when he did, I'll bet
he then said these three things to himself, thus wasting
three seconds, one after the other, like this:
1) The phrase is so perfectly apt for the context that it is worth taking that chance.
2) The song makes no sense with "I am what I am" = God.
3) And anyway, a lot more people are going to misinterpret the song
as just a drug song. (Since people are what they are)
So the hell with it. And the hell with them. The line stays.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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