Prince, then David Bowie and now Leonard Cohen. What a terrible year this has been for those of us deeply touched and taught by these creative visionaries.
Leonard Cohen was once a wild man. Then he became a Buddhist monk. But he was still a wild man, even when he was a Buddhist monk. I love the story of him sneaking out behind the meditation hall early one morning to drink his coffee and smoke a cigarette.
A lover of women, words, good whiskey and wine. A fine poet indeed. A man with impeccable style, in so many more ways than just how he wore his clothes. The kind of youthful charm Leonard Cohen had well into old age, was proof that a man can grow old without growing old. Every time you heard him speak you listened and learned something original and new. A real philosopher and poet he was. Not many, if any, around like him anymore.
Leonard why did you have to go? I know you were almost really old, but couldn’t you hang around a few more years? I am not quite ready to make a go of this without you in the world.
His novels, poetry and songs where doorways into imaginative landscapes and lovescapes, the likes of which a person never heard before. Without even knowing it was happening he taught you how to live and how to die. This world will no longer be the same place without him in it.
I don’t know as much about Leonard Cohen’s songs, books and poetry as I probably should. I know the basics of Leonard Cohen’s life but I can’t tell you specifics from his biography. For me Leonard Cohen was an example of how to live as a man and an artist. It is strange to me that I have the deepest reverence and respect for a man I have never met. I studied his interviews and from that I learned what I needed to know. I have his album Songs Of Love And Hate hanging on my wall, in the same way that someone would hang a cross or a picture of their hero.
I suppose this is what Leonard Cohen meant to me. He was my teacher. He was a man who spoke more eloquently about how to live life and deal with the various demons he struggled with than any other man I have heard speak. He made me feel less alone with my demons and despair. He showed me the way to deal; through solitude, meditation, occasional nights filled with wine and women, books, music and filling up journals with words, wisdom and art.
How many people become icons but continue to live in very humble conditions, on the second floor of a small home (his daughter and her family live below) in a lower economic neighborhood? He didn’t care much for more ostentatious material things. Money was not his main thing. How rare to find a human being (especially a successful one in America) who puts his art and his life before preoccupations with money, status and more materialistic things.
In today’s America, it is the poets and artists who go unseen. No one talks about them. Leonard Cohen broke through the thick cloud of obscurity and showed generations of artists and poets that they do not have to live a defeated, delegitimized and conformist life. He showed artists, poets and writers that there are alternative ways of living where you can keep your edge and remain in the poetry.
I could be wrong but I think Leonard Cohen somehow knew me. I often felt like he was talking right at me, especially when talking about isolation, loneliness, women, love and art. But I know everyone who loved him felt this way. That is what made him so great and this is what makes things feel so much more hollow and empty now that he is gone.
Thank you for everything Leonard Cohen. You were such a class act. I will continue to live the things you taught. Hallelujah.