Book of Mercy #29-40

Debate on Leonard Cohen's poetry (and novels), both published and unpublished.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

Post by mat james »

“(and if we ever meet, perhaps we will share a bottle)”
I look forward to that possibility, DB. I’ll bring my rattan!

Frankle and Sogyal
As for Frankl; yes I have read his book (several times) “Man’s search for meaning” but I have not read the other you mentioned, “Man’s search for ultimate meaning”
Of course I was impressed with the man and his powerful objectivity/perspectives.
As I remember it he used an interesting turn of phrase to describe his deep understanding about what he calls the “Final freedom”; It goes something like this:
“…between stimulus and response there is a “gap” and a man can “choose” (while they are in the gap), what their “response” to that stimulus will be. He called the opportunity for choice that occurs in that moment between stimulus and response the “final freedom”.
(I thought the phrase “final freedom” was perhaps in some way putting it up Hitler and his “final solution”.?)
The “gap” is a wonderful image……..that can be extruded……………………..so the gap becomes wider/longer.
In fact Sogyal Rinpoche in his book “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” also uses the image of the “gap” when he discusses the process of meditation and thought control, or thought stopping. Sogyal says something like, “…thoughts are a stream of independent entities and between each thought is a “gap”. It is the aim of meditation practice to slow down the thoughts, watch them pass, recognize the “gap” between each thought and then drop between a gap! (into the mystic, no doubt!)
..into “no thought”
And then..?
(And then, bingo into the bardos!)
He tells us that this dropping into the gap is a mini death and if we practice these mini-deaths we will become familiar with the dying process and benefit by being able to make better choices while going through that process of dying at life’s end/transience.
Again the concept of the “final freedom” to “choose”. It is all about "choice" according to both authors.
Frankl argues that one cannot always chose their environment but they can choose their reaction to that environmental stimulus/li !!! Great insight.
Frankl knows his stuff. No doubt about it!

Regards, Matj
"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-

Post by mat james »

DB SAYS,
who made you a singer in his holy house forever, - This takes us back to #1, and see our discussion there. I observed at the time that in the temple “the cohen (priest) was in charge of the sacrifices, while the levi was the singer, but they all belonged to the same original tribe, so by stretching a point LC can also count himself among those ancient singers of the Psalms.” From a different angle, the “holy house” may also refer to the body, in which the soul resides.
“From a different angle, the “holy house” may also refer to the body, in which the soul resides.”

“who has journeyed you from generation to generation – This can refer to the reincarnation of the soul (an idea that appeared in Judaism relatively late,”
What are your thoughts on re-incarnation, Doran?
to this impeccable moment of sweet bewilderment. – Only LC would end such a long, glorious sentence with sweet…bewilderment. Still, in this piece he seems less bewildered and more reassured than usual.
I’m not so sure DB. I remember Cruz defining that process of writing about his mystical experiences as “some thing they are stammering leaves me dying.” That is a form of bewilderment.
“Tremble, my soul, before the one who creates good and evil, that a man may choose among worlds; - This may be based on Isaiah 45:7 “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things”, and Deuteronomy 30:19 “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live”. Free choice is a major concept in Judaism, although it was recognized that it is in conflict with God’s omniscience. Rabbi Akiva (second century CE) declared in the Mishnah (Avot 3:19): “All is foreseen, but freedom of choice is given. The world is judged in goodness, yet all is proportioned to one's work.”
This may have also been in response to some Jewish sects, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls Sect, who believed in predetermination and the election of the just.

However, mainstream Judaism realized that this concept usually leads to a dead-end, and that the absence of free choice would make religious life meaningless.”
“ halleluiah !” to that DB.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, draw down the blessing of authority, that you may invite me to uncover you, and hold you precious till I’m worn away, and we are refreshed, soul and shadow, refreshed and rested like a sundial standing in the night. – Soul and shadow – there are always two opposites: good and evil, mercy and longing, and so on (also Yin and Yang, if you wish). Note the beautiful simile (who would have thought that a sundial needs the night to rest?).
Yes, the simile works beautifully, in a peaceful sort of way. Good point, DB.
“when he created forever, and he made it-is-finished, and he signed the foundations of unity, and polished the atoms of love”
I mentioned the new testament reference here. What do you think?
Do you also get the feeling that Leonard is pointing to the “Love” message of Jesus?

Any-one else like to make a comment ?

Regards, Matj
"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-

Post by DBCohen »

Mat,

I’ve been away for a while, and the coming two weeks are also going to be very frantic, so I cannot contribute much at the moment. Following are but a few short responses to some of your points, with my apologies.

I’m glad we agree over Frankl. Sometime later we may look at this more closely.
mat james wrote:
What are your thoughts on re-incarnation, Doran?
It's "Doron", please (I've explained it all on the last thread, I believe). Thank you.

As you may have gathered by now, I’m very interested in the mystic world, but as an outside observer, not as a practitioner. I feel that the reincarnation business is also part of the same world, of which I don’t feel I have inside information. That’s why I opted here for tradition – by way of which ideas and customs are reincarnated along generations – rather than for the real thing.
to this impeccable moment of sweet bewilderment. – Only LC would end such a long, glorious sentence with sweet…bewilderment. Still, in this piece he seems less bewildered and more reassured than usual.
I’m not so sure DB. I remember Cruz defining that process of writing about his mystical experiences as “some thing they are stammering leaves me dying.” That is a form of bewilderment.
When I wrote “Only LC…” I knew I was using a hyperbole, because he is not the only one to think or write this way, for sure, but it was very typical of him to say something like that. I do share your admiration for Juan de la Cruz, although I don’t know his writings as intimately as you.
“when he created forever, and he made it-is-finished, and he signed the foundations of unity, and polished the atoms of love”
I mentioned the new testament reference here. What do you think?
Do you also get the feeling that Leonard is pointing to the “Love” message of Jesus?
I agree with you about the New Testament reference, and references to Jesus are quite common in LC’s work, as we know well. It is probably also true that Jesus’ message of love appealed to LC. I only wonder why he chose this specific reference here. Perhaps because the whole passage – following Psalm 104 – describes a large-scale, all-engulfing myth of creation, and perhaps when he thought of it he had in mind, among other things, not only the first chapters of Genesis, but also the first verses of John, which lead him also to the verse in 19:30. The only problem is that his way of telling it does not agree with the normative Christian view, because he says: “he made it-is-finished”, while John tells us that the Word was with God in the beginning etc. So perhaps this is a Jewish reading of the Christian text. It also agrees with his depiction of Jesus in “Suzanne” and elsewhere.
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by mat james »

Doron (sorry about the "a") :D

DB says,
As you may have gathered by now, I’m very interested in the mystic world, but as an outside observer, not as a practitioner. I feel that the reincarnation business is also part of the same world, of which I don’t feel I have inside information. That’s why I opted here for tradition – by way of which ideas and customs are reincarnated along generations – rather than for the real thing.
I thought, living in Japan, you may have undertaken some training in Zen practices. ?
I don't know why I thought this :lol: ?

I have a mate, Herb, a retired professor of English/American Lit. (Doctorate on Walt Whitman and Mysticism I think?) He is a New York Jew, but he visits Australia each year and is now nearly 80. He is a great friend of my poet mate, P R Eason (Eason's latest book of poems is entitled "Mystic" and published by Wakefield Press, Adelaide). Herb too has always had an interest in mysticism but can't or won't make that leap into "practitioner", as you put it. Despite his efforts, he has been unsuccessful in entering "the gap".
Who can say why?
In a way mysticism has been his life's mission and profession.
(Herb knew Bukowski too and had him read poetry at his work site/uni...Fun and games!)
But, to the point; Herb is not a happy man. He says he was never "brave enough"..."didn't do the yards" is how he puts it.
I'm not sure whether it is a matter of being "brave enough" or a matter of being "mad enough", but as Kazantzakis says through the mouth of "Zorba";
" A man needs a little madness...or else he never dares cut the rope; and be free."

I don't really think that one needs to be "Zen" or "Sufi" or a Cruz-ing Catholic Mystic to make the grade in life. Traditions may assist, perhaps, in imparting a certain awareness;
But I do get the feeling that Kazantzakis is close to the truth.
"A man needs a little madness..."
in the search for the contented life, the happy mystic.

Matj
Last edited by mat james on Sat Feb 23, 2008 5:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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lizzytysh
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by lizzytysh »

Have a lot of catching up to do on this once again active thread... just wanted to interject that it warms the cockles of my heart to read said by "Zorba the Greek." If it hadn't been for Leonard, I would've had to stick with Zorba, Dylan, and Chapin.

< * carry on * >


~ Lizzy
"Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."
~ Oscar Wilde
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by mat james »

Hi Lizzy,

Zorba, of course is a fictional character, and Leonard is "real".
But what is "real"?
And who is the real Leonard?

If I had to take only one, I'd take Zorba !!!
(The fictional/fantasy is often better than the reality! :lol: )
"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-

Post by lizzytysh »

Hi Mat ~

Yeah, I know Zorba's 'only' fictional, but since whoever gave him such awesome philosophy and quotations in one spot, I could only summon him. I don't know who wrote it, nor the rest of his work... so had to go with the results I love.

Ha. Your point well made and taken, but give me Leonard, any day. Anyone who can manifest what he has, the way he has, in life beats a mythical, fictional character, who may well be a combination of many... for me.


~ Lizzy
"Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."
~ Oscar Wilde
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by jill »

Ah! Leonard Cohen's writings in Book of Mercy explain this line: "I'm the little Jew who wrote the Bible".

Jill
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by lazariuk »

jill wrote:Ah! Leonard Cohen's writings in Book of Mercy explain this line: "I'm the little Jew who wrote the Bible".

Jill
Does it also explain why you chose to make this little declaration?
Everything being said to you is true; Imagine of what it is true.
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by jill »

I only meant that now I can appreciate Leonard Cohen's self-deprecating humor in "Tower of Song:. To me, he is responding to critics with: "I was born with the gift of a golden voice". It also appears that he is wryly describing himself as "the little jew who wrote the Bible" in reference to Book of Mercy. That is the reason for my note. Jill
Last edited by jill on Sun Jan 27, 2008 12:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by lazariuk »

jill wrote:I only meant that now I can appreciate Leonard Cohen's self-deprecating humor in "Tower of Song:. To me, he is responding to critics with: "I was born with the gift of a golden tongue". It also appears that he is wryly describing himself as "the little jew who wrote the Bible" in reference to Book of Mercy. That is the reason for my little declaration. Jill
I am not so sure that he worries too much with responding to critics. When asked about the line he expressed that there were some things that he use to be a little timid about but with age no longer so and did say " I really am that little Jew who wrote the Bible" It could well be that he had this book in mind when he said it.
Everything being said to you is true; Imagine of what it is true.
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by lizzytysh »

I'm enjoying the relook at Book of Mercy; however, I'm missing the original look at Book of Mercy. I realize that I'm abdicating responsibility for that to others, but that doesn't make it any less so.


~ Lizzy
"Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."
~ Oscar Wilde
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by mat james »

DB said he would be busy for a couple of weeks Lizzy.
Others who may or have introduced verses in the past have neglected to do so for awhile.
I don't post new verses of BOM, I only comment or interpret.
I don't have a copy of BOM, so, in a way, I'm always in the dark as to what is coming.
I like it that way too, as there is an on-going something for me to look forward to.

Matj
"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-

Post by DBCohen »

Lizzy, thanks as always. And Mat, I wouldn’t wish to leave you in suspense for too long, so, after a considerable break, here we go again. This time, though, I’ll just introduce the text and make do with a very short comment.
II.30
Here the destruction is subtle, and there the body is torn. Here the breaking is perceived, and there the dead unaware carry their putrid remains. All trade in filth, carry their filth one to another, all walk the streets as though the ground did not recoil, all stretch their necks to bite the air, as though the breath had not withdrawn. The seed bursts without a blessing, and the harvest is gathered as if it were food. The bride and the bridegroom sink down to combine, and flesh is brought forth as if it were child. They bring their unclean hands to secret doctors, amazed at their pain, as if they had washed their hands, as if they had lifted up their hands. They write and they weep, as though evil were the miracle. They hear bad tidings, as though they were the judge. They run to what they have not soiled, but the trees and waters hide themselves behind a blessing which they are too proud to know. What they kill is already dead, and what they eat, though it be the wildest berry and they suck it from the stem, has withered long before. Let them lie on the grass, they lie on a machine. There is no world without the blessing, and every plate to which they drop their face is an abomination of blood and suffering and maggots. They leap on the hunchback with a knife, they tear at the young girl’s halter, because there is no fence in their heart, nor knowledge of the one who varies the appearance of creatures. The dew is not dew that has not been petitioned. Raise a million filters and the rain will not be clean, until the longing for it be refined in deep confession. And still we hear, If only this nation had a soul, or, Let us change the way we trade, or, Let us be proud of our region.
This is perhaps the bleakest section so far in this book, and it is written more-or-less in the prophetic key first encountered in #27, and with somewhat similar political issues in mind. The language will probably remind you of several of the early songs, on the first three albums. It clearly has the rhythm of a poem, although the rhythm changes a few times along the text. Both Christian and Jewish imagery are evident. Once again the image of the fence is important. One sentence is taken from the Prayer Book: “… Blessed be He, who varies the appearance of creatures”; it is one of the many blessings uttered on different occasions by pious Jews, this one on seeing a really strange-looking person.
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by blonde madonna »

Thank you Doron for posting this, I also don’t have a copy of BoM. Thank you also for the introduction and insight into Cohen's inspirational roots.
One sentence is taken from the Prayer Book: “… Blessed be He, who varies the appearance of creatures”; it is one of the many blessings uttered on different occasions by pious Jews, this one on seeing a really strange-looking person.
I love this verse. It has a wonderful rhythm and an arresting intensity. The images strike a chord with all the things that are happening in the world at the moment (particularly the ever present threat of climate change and war).

I read it as an apocalyptic vision of a time in the future when the world will experience a judgment day.
And still we hear, If only this nation had a soul, or, Let us change the way we trade, or, Let us be proud of our region.
This brings to mind all the excuses we make, others make, our governments make, and the band-aid solutions proposed.

And yet...
There is no world without the blessing,
Is this a vision of the world without God?

BM
the art of longing’s over and it’s never coming back

1980 -- Comedy Theatre, Melbourne
1985 -- State Theatre, Melbourne
2008 -- Hamilton, Toronto, Cardiff
2009 -- Rochford Winery, Yarra Valley
2010 -- Melbourne
2013 -- Melbourne, The Hill Winery, Geelong, Auckland
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