Many, who know me, know that I am a great fan of Leonard Cohen. I love his music but more than that, I love his poetry. Each song that is recorded is a poem that often has a level of spiritual depth that speaks to people who are living in the midst of just about any condition of life. Cohen is on tour again and I look forward to seeing him here in London on December 11th at ‘The Budweiser Garden.’ (As an aside here, I cannot believe that the John Labatt Center in London, Ontario is to be rebranded — in favour of an American brand – wrong on so many levels). LC is supporting a new album out and it is entitled, “Old Ideas.” I downloaded as soon as it was released and it did not disappoint. The album title reminds of an expression I have heard my mother use often;
“It takes a new broom to sweep clean…but it takes an old one to root out the corners.”
At nearly 78 Cohen is proving this saying to be true. With the myriad of techno music and lip-synching pop stars that dominate music channels and radio stations today, it is easy to forget that this country has birthed some real profound and wonderful artists. These new brooms may have swept names like Gordon Lightfoot, Murray McLaughlin, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Robbie Robertson from the forefront to today’s media, but albums like ‘Old Ideas’ remind us that it takes an Old Broom like Leonard Cohen to root out the corners and write lyrics to songs that are poetic and indeed are artistic. People actually believe that Justin Bieber is a national treasure because he sings “And I was like, Baby, Baby, oooo, Baby Baby…oooo” — How profound! LC has given us another album of great music but also a great album of real poetry. It is deep spiritual poetry.
A friend queried me today about which track was my favorite on Old Ideas. Without a doubt I love Come Healing best.
This Psalm-like anthem is beautifully performed with the voices of the Webb sisters who tour with Leonard. The lyrics are wonderful and cause me as a listener to enter into the song. Among the great lines in this canticle are:
O, gather ’round the brokenness
Bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises
You never dared to vow
The splinters that you carried
The cross you left behind
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind
For me this is call to the Spirit to be present. In the Christian context this song can mean much, knowing of course the story of the cross. As we gather each week we come around the table to pray for healing of body and mind. We come together to name that we are at our best when we embrace our brokenness. It is at the Eucharist that we ‘gather round the brokenness.’
Leonard Cohen’s resonant voice breaks into the song with:
Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
Of cruelty or the grace
O, solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind
“None of us deserving of cruelty or the grace.” That line resonates with me. Which of us at some point or another has not felt that we were undeserving of our suffering? Surly we have all looked at the cruelty that has besieged us at some point and cried out, ‘why me?’ At the same time is there one of us who has not felt that God’s grace is more overwhelming and more abundant that we imagine? These words of Cohen are a reminder that we all live the human condition and we all have to long for Love and long for healing of body and of mind.
The song also declares that darkness has no victory.
O, see the darkness yielding that tore the light apart
Come healing of the reason, Come healing of the heart
When I first heard this I was reminded of Psalm 139 where we read,
If I said, “The darkness will definitely hide me;
the light will become night around me,”
even then the darkness isn’t too dark for you!
Nighttime would shine bright as day,
because darkness is the same as light to you!
It is as if each word of this piece is dripping with theological meaning. Indeed, Cohen has lived his life in such a way as to declare by his very presence that darkness will not win. Touring again and supporting himself again after being betrayed by people he had trusted, he has declared by the joy of his performances that darkness will indeed yield to light.
If you have opportunity to download the music or pick up the CD – give it a listen. But I warn you, there is no use of the word ‘like’ in the album, as in “And I was like baby, baby …oooo”
I wrote this blog last night an awoke this morning to the news of that terrible shooting Aurora, Colorado. And so I pray…
Come Healing, to those who are victims of this unspeakable violence. Come Healing to the people who had to be first responders to a senseless massacre. Come Healing to those who are recovering from their physical wounds. Come Healing to those who are grieving the deaths of a dozen people today. Come Healing to the perpetrator whose troubled mind and soul is desperately ill. Come Healing to a community which is in shock. Come Healing! Come Healing to our culture which celebrates violence — teach us the ways of peace!
And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb