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Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Posted: Wed Apr 21, 2010 6:08 pm
by MaryB
B4real wrote: (mainly because my computer starts jumping all over the place when I have a long post).
Hi B4real,

Try this
- on top right of your screen, click on the down arrow to the right of the print button
-click on page set up
-unclick (disable)the button that says 'Shrink to Fit'

Hope this helps.

Best regards,

(PS I love reading your informative posts)

:oops: Ooops - this was meant for PM - so sorry!

Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Posted: Thu Apr 22, 2010 12:14 am
by B4real
Thanks Mary,
On all points. I've never noticed that arrow before.
I've had fun with this thread and I think it has now turned into "Something Different" :razz:

Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Posted: Thu Apr 22, 2010 12:36 am
by TineDoes
B4real wrote:Interesting comparison isn't it?
Yes very. Thank you for all the very interesting information about Cohen's art. I know it from the Book of Longing. I never made the connection with Matisse's or Cocteau's drawings. Brilliant.
Do you mind the tread having turned into something else?
The Dance by Matisse is being exhibited in The Hermitage (annex) in Amsterdam for a few weeks. It is absolutely huge.

Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Posted: Thu Apr 22, 2010 12:54 am
by TineDoes
B4real wrote: I almost always have a plan when I start but inevitably the work finds a life of its own and I just go with the flow and follow along the path in the direction it leads me.
Hi B4real, I had a great drawing teacher and she used to say 'Let the drawing tell you what it needs!'. From interviews I have heard Leonard Cohen say that his lyrics also start off as one thing and end up as something else.
Indeed we can only guess what Leonards internal landscapes look like when he is writing his lyrics.

Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Posted: Fri Apr 23, 2010 3:12 pm
by B4real
Well, after all this investigation with art and science I have come back to the original positive/negative verses. Combining all that we have spoken about, I am presenting them visually in their complimentary contrasting colours, so to speak. To my way of thinking, it certainly does give an immediate understanding to the feeling expressed by the words. See how the lines balance each other in colour and meaning. Because of the restricting range of colours available I have matched them as well as I can. The yellows are hard to read, but it is the complement of purple.

I am not life
I am not death
I am not slave
or free.....

A flame that doesn’t need to live
and doesn’t need to die.....

Where none was sick
and none was well.....

Death is old, but it’s always new.....

I need you, I don’t need you.....

We're both of us beneath our love
we're both of us above.....

I can't forget but I don't remember what
I can't forget but I don't remember who.....

The open hearted many
the broken hearted few

the broken hearted many
the open hearted few.....

I will kill you if I must,
I will help you if I can,
I will help you if I must,

I will kill you if I can.....

May everyone live,
and may everyone die
hello my love,
and my love goodbye.....

Where there's nothing above
and there's nothing below.....

And there is no space,
but there's left and right,
and there is no time,
but there's day and night.....

And it's partner found, it's partner lost.....

Moods of glory,
moods so foul.....

I felt so good I couldn't feel a thing.....

I see you lying down with me, I see you waking up.....

It did some good,
did some harm.....

Now, I’m not suggesting that this is a normal thing to do and that all lines should be as colourful as these. I have just done this as an example to visually illustrate, with colours opposite to each other on the colour wheel, the opposing implication that I feel those lines convey. Do you know what happens when you mix two complimentary colours together no matter which pair you use? You will always get the same uncertain grey colour (or the same uncertain conclusion of the song line).

I probably have over indulged myself here, but I have had fun doing it. Maybe I do have a bit of synesthesia. :roll: :lol:

Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Posted: Fri Apr 23, 2010 4:24 pm
by Susy
Feel So Good
Not To Love You
Like I Did

Would be so happy to hear that at 2 places in summer 2010 :D

Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Posted: Sun Apr 25, 2010 9:13 am
by B4real
TineDoes wrote:Indeed we can only guess what Leonards internal landscapes look like when he is writing his lyrics.
I was doing some research for an entirely different project when I stumbled across this statement by Leonard when asked if he thinks that there are colours in each musical note -

"Do you think that there are colors that coincide with each key?"

Leonard's reply:
"I think there are but mostly for me it’s range. Some keys will place the voice a little deeper than others."

It would appear that colour does have some element in his song writing.

Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Posted: Sun Apr 25, 2010 9:51 pm
by TineDoes
B4real, The classical composor Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992 Paris) was born with the gift of seeing colors when he heard music, though he said that no one ever believed him. The cord E-major (I think that is the cord referred to in 'Hallelujah') he saw as the color red.

Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Posted: Thu May 20, 2010 2:37 pm
by TineDoes
Oposites as the force of life.

The early Greek Philosopher Heraclitus said that the struggle of opposites is the father of all things. The (Dutch) philosopher Spinoza defined the unity of opposites in his work ‘Ethica’. He says, as far as I understand it, that the unity of opposites is the organism of reality, and it takes its shape in love, particularly in the human being. His ideas bear resemblance to the Eastern ideas of Yang and Yin. Love is the only truth that gives life its meaning or what life is all about. I think Spinosa understands God/ Nature /love to be one and the same; the elementary autonomous force and forward movement of life. Spinosa defines a kind of knowledge that is a universal consciousness that he calls an intuitive providing insight. This Love manifests itself in humanity through learning, the development of philosophy, science and art.

Maybe LC when he says that he had studied deeply into the philosophies of life, maybe he came across Heraclitus and Spinoza.

Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Posted: Sat May 22, 2010 9:19 am
by B4real
Hi TineDoes, and all,

Maybe Leonard also read Carl Jung’s principles and theories. This particular principle of opposites relates to the general discussion on this thread.

Carl Jung gives us three principles, but it is the principle of opposites which I’m interested in here. Every wish immediately suggests its opposite. If I have a good thought, for example, I cannot help but have in me somewhere the opposite bad thought. In fact, it is a very basic point: In order to have a concept of good, you must have a concept of bad, just like you can't have up without down or black without white - it would be impossible to see my image 'lenurn' on the first page of this thread.
According to Jung, it is the opposition that creates the power (or libido) of the psyche. It is like the two poles of a battery, or the splitting of an atom. It is the contrast that gives energy, so that a strong contrast gives strong energy, and a weak contrast gives weak energy.
The goal of life is to realize the self. The self is an archetype that represents the transcendence of all opposites, so that every aspect of your personality is expressed equally. You are then neither and both male and female, neither and both ego and shadow, neither and both good and bad, neither and both conscious and unconscious, neither and both an individual and the whole of creation. And yet, with no oppositions, there is no energy, and you cease to act. Of course, you no longer need to act.
Just as polarity is seen in the physical body, it's also expressed in the functions of mind. Carl Jung also saw a parallel to physics in the nature of the human psyche. He recognized that the conscious and unconscious mind, like the wave and particle nature of light, represent a complementary pair of opposites. Biologist Rupert Sheldrake also saw a parallel to the human mind in the “dark matter” astronomers believe comprises the bulk of the universe. “Just as the conscious mind floats, as it were, on the surface of the sea of unconscious mental processes, so the known physical world floats on a cosmic ocean of dark matter.”

I believe that we cannot see, experience, or appreciate perfection without having seen, experienced or appreciated the imperfections which constantly surround us. It is within the imperfections that perfection becomes manifest. It is only because there is darkness that the light is light. A positive is only positive in the face of a negative. Opposites and dualities create the fabric of the world through which we see our lives and the lives of those around us. It is our experience of these opposites and these dualities which shape and move the threads of our lives and colour the fabric which we flaunt before the world. There are times when I wonder what is coming in the world... it is only necessary to look at the prevailing attitudes of mind, the prevailing views on the opposites and dualities of life to ascertain the coming tragedy or the coming triumph.

What are the opposites at play in your life in this moment? What are you doing to achieve peace of mind midst this war of opposites and dualities? Peace of mind does not come as we experience the so called good side of the opposites or dualities. Peace of mind, the serenity of the soul, is a constant that weathers the storms of life... it transcends the opposites and the dualities which seem to plague us at times. Midst difficulty, pain and confusion we can experience the same serenity of soul and of mind as we do during the times of ease, comfort and certainty.

Perfection is found in each moment, in each lesson, in each experience... the good and the bad. If it were not for some of my worse experiences I should never have experienced some of the greatest. Some years ago I nearly died but in that time due to a simple twist of fate I was re-connected to Leonard and here I am. The magic of the good appears when the magic of the worse begins... When what we do not want to happen begins to occur... the magic opposing it begins to work as well. If ever you are struggling and suffering - remember that life is a complex tangle of opposites yet those opposites are always equal. "Oh tangle of matter and ghost" (substance and spirit). There is always another sunrise to counteract the sunset. The light will always follow the darkness and the day the night. There is always another light on the horizon when the last light has gone out. We do more by simply being who we are (Lizzy's signature comes to mind) than by all the other actions of our lives combined. Learning of ourselves in relation to the opposites and dualities of life is a way we can come to do this and develop a certain serenity of soul in the process.

It is all so very interesting isn’t it? Not all of these words are mine but their thoughts and spirit are. I find that the more we delve into this positive/negative subject, the more we realise how very much more there is to uncover. You could say it has a definite claim to the source of love and life because in my eyes, nothing can have any meaning, or even any existence, except in terms of something else.

Be :)

Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Posted: Mon May 24, 2010 11:52 pm
by TineDoes
B4real wrote:Opposites and dualities create the fabric of the world through which we see our lives and the lives of those around us. It is our experience of these opposites and these dualities which shape and move the threads of our lives and colour the fabric which we flaunt before the world.
B4real wrote:Perfection is found in each moment, in each lesson, in each experience... the good and the bad.
Thank you for all of your interesting thoughts on opposties and dualities and sharing your experiences. You are so strong. A quote comes to my mind "where I once was blind now I could see". But I cannot think from which lyric it comes from or wheater I have it quoted correctly. You let Leonard Cohen in! Maybe it is a natural force of life to seek the possitive and let it into your life after the negative. But I think it may also take a special talent or force of will to do that. One has to see the light.

Yesterday I saw these two paintings in a (Kruller Muller) museum and I immediately thought of this thread and what you said about contrasting colors; how they give vibrance to a painting. The first is 'Cypresses' by Pissaro, the other is a still life by a Dutch painter Leo van Gestel.

By the way in the thread 'Are Leonard Cohen lyrics influenced by Buddism?', in posts round 10th april, many interesting ideas have been aired about dualism by different forum members. One is that dualism in Buddistic thought is but an 'illusion'.

Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Posted: Sat May 29, 2010 9:32 am
by B4real
HI TineDoes,

Thank you for your generous words; I try my best. The quote to which you are referring "Amazing grace, How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now I'm found, was blind but now I see" is from a song called Amazing Grace. It is a Christian hymn written by John Newton in 1772.

Thanks for the info on dualism in the buddhism thread - I had read it before but on your prompting I saw it with a new light.

You have so much opportunity over there to just go down the road and look at all the wonderful paintings. About the two paintings you posted the complimentary colours in the Pissaro are mainly purple and yellow. The other contrast comes from the difference in tonal depth between the trees and the background and foreground. In the van Gestel red and green are the opposites. The fruit in the front with reds, oranges and yellows is actually harmonious (next to each other on the cololur wheel - not opposite) but their combined colours do give an overall impression of warm against cool. Once again, it is the contrasting depth of tone between the light flowers/background and the darker green background which also catches your eye. I know they would be much more vibrant to actually view them. Would that I could. :)

Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Posted: Mon Aug 09, 2010 3:27 pm
by Arnold the Frog
Another virtual dead tree from me.

I'm amused by the phrase "an official poetry device". Where is
Peter Cook when we need him? I suppose what was meant was "is
there a name for this figure of speech?". Yes, there is: it's
"antithesis". There are sub-flavours, but that's a useful start.
Also present in the examples you cite is chiasmus, in which words
are interchanged between clauses words. The lag between the
effortless change in the clauses, and the point at which this translates
into seeing what it means, makes the reader/listener momentarily
aware of language doing its work. This isn't the only form of chiasmus -
it can also occur simply in the ordering of terms, as an interchange
between subject and object, or subject and complement - but
this is the only kind I noticed here.

Leonard Cohen is not very interested in contradiction, but he is VERY
interested in ambivalence (naturally, since that's what you find if you
dig deep enough). From that it expands into construing the world in
different ways - because the world is seen differently from the
different sides of an ambivalence. Ambivalence can arise in quite
straightforward ways. People are never "just after one thing".
Cohen, specifically, is very frequently caught between the demands
of earthly and heavenly love, and the relationship between these
demands keeps on changing.

For a really disturbing case of Cohen avoiding contradiction in favour
of ambivalence, try A Singer Must Die. At least, that's how I take it.
It shrinks if it is treated as a sarcastic "protest song". He is helpless
before his unjust judges because he is accused for the crime he has
committed: the lie in his voice. This is the cry of the guilty.
It's also interesting in an unpleasant way as
one of the few places in Cohen where sex is not just dangerous but
actually hostile - "the ladies go moist", which seems to be offered as
the reason why "the judge has no choice". Ouch.
Before I stop rambling, I'll note that I find myself looking at Jazz
as a funhouse-mirror doublet of this song. But I am

Here are some worked examples from your list. Please consider this
a warning: self-indulgence alert! The other items on the list have
failed to reach enough of an equilibrium for me to offer even a hint
about "what they mean". This itself is part of the intention - to unsettle
the listener/reader into awareness of ambivalence itself. Having a clue
doesn't always settle the ambiguities - sometimes it keeps them sharp.
One thing which drops out is that Cohen uses antithesis in very different
ways: there isn't only one way in which it means things.
I need you, I don’t need you…
Someone else (not the addressee) has
been bothering LC with "all of that jiving around", insisting that he follow her
into re-interpreting their relationship every time her mood changes. There is
at least a suggestion that it's more cynical than that - he is being given a run-
around, so each time he tries to re-build a sense of connection he's
told that he's doing it wrong. Think Teachers. This is a moment of uncontrolled

Of course, Cohen himself both does and doesn't need those whom he loves (well or
badly), and this is why it bothers him so much. So, irrational resentment apart, what
is it that he is actually complaining about not receiving? More courtesy? More
willingness to recognise ambivalence? It's not clear - he seems to be rather stuck
himself in demanding the unstated and impossible.

We all know who the addressee was. Considering just how finally and fatally
Janis Joplin "got away" - even if, as is probable, her overdose was not deliberate -
there is something seriously worryingly wrong in Cohen's apparent preferences at this
point. As others have pointed out, at the time when this song was written, much
the most important source of "all of that jiving around" must have been Suzanne
Elrod. Not only is breaking up hard to do, it can make you really horrible - and
this particular display suggests considerable gracelessness on Cohen's part, which
may or may not reflect an originating gracelessness on hers. But I'm wandering off
my point again.

We’re both of us beneath our love
we’re both of us above…
Partly, of course, this is simply literal ("you are my love").
Let's hear it for Various Positions! More seriously, there is a
quintessentially Cohenish distinction, here coming out
fairly early, between Love Itself (which we are either
"in" or "beneath"), and the sense that the actual particular
relationship can never quite reach all the parts that God
can reach. Think In My Secret Life - somewhere inside,
we keep what we treasure unspotted from the world. The
price is that all that "goodness" makes no contact with the
world, is impotent against it, and it's lonely in there. The
task of earthly love is to live dangerously, to move across
the borders, and allow the inner perfection to manifest.
The sense that beneath the particular self there is an
absolute self which is free from its wickedness is definitely
Buddhist and not Jewish. The importance of personal love
between particular selves (rather than universal compassion)
is Jewish and not Buddhist. This falls out naturally (if I may
be allowed the word) from the impact of having a personal God.
The love of God (in both directions) transcends the
distinction between particular and universal, and can slip
elusively into unexpected places haunts

I can’t forget but I don’t remember what
I can’t forget but I don’t remember who…
The man is haunted by what he knows but has not
realised. A very Zen question (if it is a question)
to the first answer (to the extent that it is an answer)
might be "What was your original face?". Again,
I'm not sure that this is so very unfamiliar an
experience. However, I don't want to overdo the
koan aspects. Remember that this song was
a substitute for Born in Chains when it collapsed
under the weight of being recorded. Surely it
performs (in an early and unrealised way - it doesn't
strike me as Big Leonard Cohen) Cohen's sense that
the song has got away from him. He no longer
believes in what he thought he was trying to say, and
is trying to recover what the song was trying to say
(which might prove to be nothing).

Of course, Born in Chains has re-surfaced now, which suggests
some major changes in Cohen's internal weather, if not in
his internal landscape.

The open hearted many
the broken hearted few
the broken hearted many
the open hearted few…
This combines antithesis with chiasmus (just pointing it out).

The reference to the Persian Sufi poets is a
BIG hint! The banquet is life itself, lived in darkness with
no visible purpose, and yet a celebration, though nobody
can say of what. We enter on life (mostly) open-hearted -
just think of almost any young child - and we leave it (mostly)
closed in our own misery. [There must be something wrong
with children, they grow up into us. But that's my point, not
Leonard Cohen's.] This is actually one of the most
straightforward (though painful) oppositions in the list.
There is something deeply frightening in insisting on life as
a feast, while still quietly asserting that most people leave
it more damaged than they arrived. Perhaps all copies
should be stamped "Some party, I left wasted".

I will kill you if I must, I will help you if I can
I will help you if I must, I will kill you if I can…
Chiasmus again.

This goes with "Man of peace or man of war"
(I admit this doesn't altogether help).
Cohen explicitly refuses to give a privileged
moral position to those who reject war.
Abraham was not a man of war.
Cohen has never been a pacifist. To some
extent, Cohen seems to be claiming both
positions here, ordered to suggest increasing
desperation about his options. In there is also
an increased sense of urgency about "help".
It's not a luxury, the over-spill of plenty:
he must -- perhaps most of all when he must
Think of his expressed attitudes during
the Yom Kippur War. The war against "Ishmael"
is fratricidal and horrible; victory is merely
necessary, but the aim is - MUST BE - peace.
A victory march is always an alternative to love -
a bad move. This life and death business, it's
tough all over. Modern science will doubtless
invent an easy-clean substitute any day now.

I don't think I have anything sufficiently
shaped to say about the others. I'm not
sure whether that's my failure or Cohen's

Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Posted: Fri Apr 17, 2015 3:39 am
by B4real
Thank you Arnold the Frog for your thoughts on those lines - I must have forgotten to remember them then, it seems so long ago :)

I thought I’d resurrect this thread and add some more positive/negative art complimentary contrasted examples in line with the reasons I've explained near the top of this page. viewtopic.php?f=9&t=21288&p=352816#p224581

Nevermind on Leonard’s latest studio album Popular Problems -

There’s truth that lives
And truth that dies

Plus a few poems from Book of Longing –

better than darkness
is fake darkness

better than darkness
is darkness

All My News
Look on low
Look on high
not only charge
of opposites
(the broken heart
the healing fix)

Roshi at 89
He’s been living with the living
and dying with the dead
He’s making war on war
and he’s making war on peace
and he’s making war on Nothing
that has Something in its place

Please feel free to add any others you may know.