November 11, 2016

Love Is The Only Engine Of Survival

"Like a bird on a wire
Like a drunk in the midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free."

Multi-talented artist Leonard Cohen was born on September 21, 1934, in Montreal, Canada.  As if this week hasn't been emotional enough, Canada's Dylan passed away Monday at the age of 82.

Prolific to the end of his life (his most recent album was released three weeks ago), the singer/songwriter learned to play the guitar as a teenager, and as a young student, also wrote poetry and novels. 

In describing Cohen's work, singer Jennifer Warnes said, "Leonard acknowledges that the whole act of living contains immense amounts of sorrow and hopelessness and despair; and also passion, high hopes, and deep and eternal love." All his life he was true to the creative calling.

"I've seen the future, brother: it is murder."

In 1960, Cohen purchased a home on the Greek island of Hydra, attracted to the simple way of life on this picturesque island in the Mediterranean. With no cars and limited electricity, here he lived a quasi-reclusive lifestyle and focused on his art and his family.

As an artist that had creativity oozing from every pore, Cohen also did visual art – in particular, sketching and drawing which he had been interested in since a boy. Living on Hydra with his young children, Cohen often made drawing an important family activity around the kitchen table. 

If you don't become the ocean, you'll become seasick every day"

Much later the drawing that was his life was tragically torn to shreds by a close friend that helped manage his business affairs. Cohen's savings, retirement account, and the rights to some of his music were all gone. He was left penniless at almost 70 years old, his entire career's earnings missing. 

Rather than be defeated and bitter, Cohen responded to his situation with grace and equanimity. No doubt his 5 years of seclusion at the Mount Baldy Zen Center near Los Angeles helped him through his predicament successfully. 

"Take the only tree that's left and stuff it up the hole in your culture"

Throughout his life Cohen exuded a sense of calm and peace, even after being unable to recover any of the millions missing from his bank accounts. Unafraid of hard work, he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and got back to the business of creating beautiful things for the world.

His chosen name after being ordained as a Zen Buddhist monk means "silence", unusual for a guy whose words will continue to resonate far and loud into the future. Amidst his creative output there remained a rock-like steadfastness.

He triumphed, and before long had fully recovered financially. At the same time the singer was approaching 8 decades and he sensed that the end of his life was near. His lover from his time in Greece, and the mother of his children, died in July of this year, and he thought he might not be far behind.

Cohen's farewell letter to Marianne was read at her funeral, stating that "... our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine." 

Three months later they would be holding hands once again. Good bye Mr. Cohen.

"Love is the only engine of survival."


  1. What a wonderful memorial you've written for one of the greatest. I began grieving when I saw the breaking news last night. I've loved Leonard Cohen. His words and music reach the deepest parts of my heart and soul. Perhaps the most passionate singer songwriter of all time. Never anyone so deeply attached to and entangled with their art.
    Thanks for the video link; I listened for nearly two hours.
    He will be missed. His legend and influence will live forever. I'm sorry for your loss Canada and the world.
    You are right, Leonard, Love's the only engine of survival. Thank you for sharing your deep deep soul with us, rest in peace.

    1. Terri,

      Linda and I hooked into LC videos and music for hours, too. He was such a quality human being in a world increasingly void of such amazing role models.

  2. Goodbye Leonard, have a safe journey home. Will miss you here.Saffron

  3. There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in. RIP Leonard Cohen.

    1. Miss Marla,

      He is through the crack, and can see the light now.

  4. PS22 Chorus. The mix of races in these kids is palpable. I cried.

    1. Terri,

      Thanks - that was great. Love it.

  5. Beautiful. I learned a lot about him that I didn't know from your post. Have you ever considered writing biographies? This was quite good! :D

    1. Adge,

      I have not considered that, but it sure was fun writing this. Since this post I have learned a bit more about LC, and as I would expect, it is all good.

      Leonard lived in a modest home in an average neighbourhood, not in some star-studded hilltop gated community of mansions, as befitting his level of financial success. He was loved by his neighbours who described him as "gentle" and a person that liked walking.

      Leonard Cohen was buried in a simple pine box, next to his parents, in a cemetery in Montreal. A small group of family and friends attended a low-key ceremony. Glad you enjoyed the post.


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