Another Maestro Passes, Songs Never Die.

Encountering Suzanne

One day a few decades ago while living photo of Leonard Cohen on album cover in the staff residence of Purdysburn Hospital where I trained, a guitar-backed voice drifted along the corridor and filled the atmosphere of my little box room with such a haunting power that I literally stood still to listen. It was my first encounter with Leonard Cohen singing Suzanne.

My friend Edyth had just bought an LP of this master of lyrics and beautiful melancholic melody and once my obligatory cassette tape copy was manufactured, Leonard Cohen became my ‘go to’ artist for many years to come.

To date there is much commentary around Cohen’s prophetic words and their poignancy for the conditions of contemporary humanity but my purpose here is to pay tribute to an artist who enriched my life and helped strengthen my spirit, and to declare both sadness that his life has ended as well as joy that his songs will live forever. Like David Bowie, another Maestro lost this year, his work is woven into my Self in a multitude of ways. Yet professing this devotion often brought forth responses that were characteristically stereotyped comments along the lines of darkness, gloom, foreboding and nihilism. Not for me, though. I have always found Leonard Cohen’s songs enchanting and uplifting. They always bring me joy.

Warm Words

Laura Barton’s obituary for Cohen on The Guardian’s music blog takes the same view. To describe him as a ‘miserabilist’ is ‘to miss entirely the warmth of his words’, which, she elaborates, ‘run at the same temperature as blood.’ What animates Leonard Cohen’s offering is the joy beyond pain, the lesson in the challenge, the solution within the problem, the beauty within the chaos. As Barton reminds us, he echoes the wisdom of Rumi in his song Anthem 

 ‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’.

So to the songs that stick with me most:

  • The Partisan
  • Famous Blue Raincoat
  • Suzanne
  • Hallelujah
  • So Long Marianne
  • The Sisters of Mercy
  • Lady Midnight
  • Who By Fire
  • Dance Me to the End of Love
  • Hey, that’s no way to say Goodbye

Tibetan Book of the Dead Narration

Some time ago I found a documentary on The Tibetan Book of the Dead perfectly enriched by Leonard Cohen’s voice as the narrator, so this is what I’m watching now as  my memorial to another Maestro gone from the world. Check it out, it’s a profound exploration of life meaning and enrichment of the human spirit through meditative practice and Buddhist teachings. There is an empathy and wisdom in Cohen’s voice that makes this film a celebration of life in the midst of physical death. I wish him well on his journey and thank him for the songs.

 

Songs Never Die

 

Journal Me Calm: Meditation and the Journaling Journey

Thanks to The Two Honest Guys for uploading their lovely meditation videos to You Tube (here’s the link http://youtu.be/02aLFyuYIE4 )

Using meditation and relaxation techniques can be a great way to get into the zone for a more reflective, insightful and calming journaling experience. There is a mass of evidence for the beneficial effects of meditation generally as any google search will unearth. There are quite a few books and personal stories around too and one book I am currently reading is ‘OPEN: How learning to live from the heart changed everything’, by Eoin McCabe. It is a story of a personal journey that has been enhanced through the use of mindfulness (living in the Now and accepting what is) and meditation (taking time to connect with the universal consciousness through our own inner being). One of my favourite sources for meditational information and inspiration is the Chopra Center who sometimes provide free meditation courses like the one coming up soon – a 21 day meditation challenge (follow the link below to view the facebook page and sign up form). I never manage to get through the whole 21! But I have downloaded one set and they are very helpful to have on-hand. This new series coming through next week is presented by both Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey and promises a concurrent journaling facility as well, so I am planning to stick with it and see how that goes. I often find that fleeting images bubble up in my meditation sessions and I have just recently started to note them down in  my journal, so I’m looking forward to this combined programme and hope I will learn more about the connections between meditation and journaling for health and well-being.

Happy Journaling!

[here’s the link to the upcoming 21-day meditation]

https://www.chopracentermeditation.com/Bestsellers/LandingPage.aspx?BookId=178

Saints and Scholars

Ireland has long been known as the land of Saints and Scholars. Generally speaking, we think of Christian Saints like Saint Brendan and fairly recent writers such as James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. But the tradition goes back much further, to pre-Christian societies and to the dawning of Celtic Christianity with Saint Patrick. For anyone interested in the intricacies of this fertile history, Lawrence Taylor’s book ‘Occasions of Faith’ is quite gripping. But it was during Saint Patrick’s weekend that a television programme caught my eye and proved well worth the watch.

It was a documentary on the life and work of the illustrious Saint Himself. Not only was Patrick, as a Roman citizen born in Britain, an unlikely candidate for Irish sainthood, he was also pretty maverick in his teachings and practises, once he actually managed to get the established Christian authorities to accept and train him as a monk.

His scholarship is legendary due to the prolific writings and reflections he left in his wake, indeed we are told by some of the many experts interviewed for the programme that Irish monastic scholarship was the main promoter of the written word in early medieval Europe.

Yet at the core of Patrick’s work lay the welfare of the people, both economic and spiritual, and his lack of gender discrimination in recruiting followers was also truly ahead of his time!

Through his earlier cultural immersion, Patrick was able to relate to the native Irish on their own terms and with due respect to their existing cosmologies and deities. By dint of that familiarity, especially with the practice of gift-giving and respectful gestures towards the chieftains, he was accepted, listened to and ultimately followed by the people who were his onetime enslavers.

Most striking however is the evident epiphany, almost ‘enlightenment’ experience he had as an isolated and lonely young slave who developed a mystical connection with God through daily connections with nature and meditative prayer, that resulted in prescient and directive dreams and visions. These experiences gave him a deep and intense meaning and mission in life, to bring his mystical form of Christianity to the Irish.

While not adhering personally to a specific religious tradition, I recognise the mystic as the embodiment of true spirituality common to all truth-seekers’ attempts to connect with the divine. I am minded of Jung’s concept of the hero’s journey which he saw as a potential in every human who is prepared to allow the unconscious to erupt. The programme can be viewed in several parts on youtube, the first instalment at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=Lu1DQx4tUSQ

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