David Jones, artist and poet (1895-1974) begins his PREFACE TO THE ANATHEMATA :

'I have made a heap of all that I could find.' (1) So wrote Nennius, or whoever composed the introductory matter to Historia Brittonum. He speaks of an 'inward wound' which was caused by the fear that certain things dear to him 'should be like smoke dissipated'. Further, he says, 'not trusting my own learning, which is none at all, but partly from writings and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of Britain, partly from the annals of the Romans and the chronicles of the sacred fathers, Isidore, Hieronymous, Prosper, Eusebius and from the histories of the Scots and Saxons although our enemies . . . I have lispingly put together this . . . about past transactions, that [this material] might not be trodden under foot'. (2)

(1) The actual words are coacervavi omne quod inveni, and occur in Prologue 2 to the Historia.
(2) Quoted from the translation of Prologue 1. See The Works of Gildas and Nennius, J.A.Giles, London 1841.

11 November 2016

Vale Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

1970 : back in the day, we knew every chord, every song, had studied every photo.

1984 : first (and only) visit to New York. With fellow Australian artists Linda Marrinon, Vivienne Shark LeWitt, Stephen Bush and Geoff Lowe, we stayed for a week in an old hotel opposite The Algonquin. One day Geoff reported he'd shared the lift with Leonard (and a woman). 'Wow, he's here too!'

2012 : Christine was a big fan of Leonard. "Dance Me to the End of Love" played at her funeral.
For now we see through a glass, darkly
but then face to face: 
now I know in part; 
but then shall I know even as also I am known.
And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; 
but the greatest of these is love.
   - 1 Corinthians 12-13 

 You want it darker/ We kill the flame
 ... as Donald Trump is elected President of the United States.  

2016 : Last month, Leonard Cohen released his 14th studio album - You Want It Darker. Here, it's on constant repeat. Through a glass darkly, a shining light.
If you are the dealer, I'm out of the game
If you are the healer, it means I'm broken and lame
If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame 
Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning for the help that never came
You want it darker 
Hineni, hineni
I'm ready, my lord
Highly recommended is this David Remnick essay in the New Yorker :

At eighty-two, the troubadour has another album coming. Like him, it is obsessed with mortality, God-infused, and funny.
The new record opens with the title track, “You Want It Darker,” and in the chorus, the singer declares:

Hineni Hineni
I’m ready my Lord. 
Hineni is Hebrew for “Here I am,” Abraham’s answer to the summons of God to sacrifice his son Isaac; the song is clearly an announcement of readiness, a man at the end preparing for his service and devotion. Cohen asked Gideon Zelermyer, the cantor at Shaar Hashomayim, the synagogue of his youth in Montreal, to sing the backing vocals. And yet the man sitting in his medical chair was anything but haunted or defeated. 
“I know there’s a spiritual aspect to everybody’s life, whether they want to cop to it or not,” Cohen said. “It’s there, you can feel it in people—there’s some recognition that there is a reality that they cannot penetrate but which influences their mood and activity. So that’s operating. That activity at certain points of your day or night insists on a certain kind of response. Sometimes it’s just like: ‘You are losing too much weight, Leonard. You’re dying, but you don’t have to coöperate enthusiastically with the process.’ Force yourself to have a sandwich. 
“What I mean to say is that you hear the Bat Kol.” The divine voice. “You hear this other deep reality singing to you all the time, and much of the time you can’t decipher it. Even when I was healthy, I was sensitive to the process. At this stage of the game, I hear it saying, ‘Leonard, just get on with the things you have to do.’ It’s very compassionate at this stage. More than at any time of my life, I no longer have that voice that says, ‘You’re fucking up.’ That’s a tremendous blessing, really.”

Leonard Koan (1934-2016)
I heard the snake was baffled by his sin
He shed his scales to find the snake within
But born again is born without a skin
The poison enters into everything

from Treaty 
(track 2 and final reprise on You Want It Darker)
A koan is a story, dialogue, question, or statement, which is used in Zen practice to provoke the "great doubt" and test a student's progress in Zen practice.

An aptronym is a person's name that is regarded as amusingly appropriate to their occupation. Example : "He began collecting aptronyms when he saw an ad for a flower shop operated by Flora Gardner."

Nomen est omen, OK!

Leonard Cohen was involved with Buddhism from the early 1970s. Later in that decade he associated with the Buddhist monk and rōshi (venerable teacher) Kyozan Joshu Sasaki, regularly visiting him at Mount Baldy Zen Center and serving him as personal assistant during Cohen's (five year) period of reclusion at Mount Baldy monastery in the 1990s. He was ordained a Rinzai Buddhist monk in 1996. (*For similar Rinzai wit and wisdom see also Hakuin, Sengai, Thich Nhat Hạnh.He saw no conflict between his Zen practice and his enduring Jewish identity. (from Wikipedia)

"That Hineni, that declaration of readiness no matter what the outcome, that’s a part of everyone’s soul. We all are motivated by deep impulses and deep appetites to serve, even though we may not be able to locate that which we are willing to serve. So, this is just a part of my nature, and I think everybody else’s nature, to offer oneself at the moment, at the critical moment when the emergency becomes articulate. It’s only when the emergency becomes articulate that we can locate that willingness to serve. [pause] That’s getting too heavy. I’m sorry. Strike that!"
from 'Leonard Cohen Corrects Himself: 'I Intend to Stick Around Until 120'
Billboard / Chris Willman, 14 October 2016

 Cohen with Roshi and Roshi’s wife, Haruyo Saski 
 at Mount Baldy - from article here

You Want It Darker as death poem :

The death poem (jisei) is a genre of poetry that developed in the literary traditions of East Asian cultures—most prominently in Japan as well as certain periods of Chinese history and Joseon Korea. They tend to offer a reflection on death—both in general and concerning the imminent death of the author—that is often coupled with a meaningful observation on life. The practice of writing a death poem has its origins in Zen Buddhism. It is a concept or worldview derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence (三法印 sanbōin?), specifically that the material world is transient and impermanent (無常 mujō?), that attachment to it causes suffering (苦 ku?), and ultimately all reality is an emptiness or absence of self-nature (空 kū?). These poems became associated with the literate, spiritual, and ruling segments of society, as they were customarily composed by a poet, warrior, nobleman, or Buddhist monk.

The writing of a poem at the time of one's death and reflecting on the nature of death in an impermanent, transitory world is unique to East Asian culture. It has close ties with Buddhism, and particularly the mystical Zen Buddhism (of Japan), Chan Buddhism (of China) and Seon Buddhism (of Korea). From its inception, Buddhism has stressed the importance of death because awareness of death is what prompted the Buddha to perceive the ultimate futility of worldly concerns and pleasures. A death poem exemplifies both the "eternal loneliness" that is found at the heart of Zen and the search for a new viewpoint, a new way of looking at life and things generally, or a version of enlightenment (satori in Japanese; wu in Chinese).
- Wikipedia

We guess that Leonard would have appreciated this one, too :

Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, some Japanese poets have utilized levity or irony in their final compositions. The Zen monk, Tokō (杜口; 1710–1795, aged 85), commented on the pretentiousness of some jisei in his own death poem:

Jisei to wa
sunawachi mayoi
tada shinan
Death poems
are mere delusion —
death is death.ref.

The Leonard Koan  
 A Person Looks At A Work Of Art/
 someone looks at something...