With the calendar year coming to a close, it’s time for a bit of reflection. What better subject then musings from the late great Leonard Cohen, one of the greatest songwriters of our time. With his salty penetrating voice, he was a poet laureate who made imperfection gorgeous. Leonard Cohen remains a music icon.
It’s been a little over a year since his death. In life, he had a string of false starts, broken relationships, a nomadic existence, years of seclusion, savage depression, periods of crippling anxiety, financial ruin, years of hard work in his twilight years, and finally, cancer.
Such is his resume.
Even in his last interview, with The New Yorker, Leonard was thin with cancer yet hard at work with his last album and a book of poetry due for release next year.
Here are a couple of what I will call “Leonard’s Life Lessons” – advice from the great man on how to negotiate your time on this planet.
It’s perfect fodder for this time of the year – the end of 2017 – and I hope it will prompt you to take a precious minute to reflect on what matters to you and why.
1. Don’t take yourself too seriously:
Leonard had a sharp sense of humour. Recalling his time on the island of Hydra, where he alternated between extreme discipline and reckless abandon – he spent days fasting and taking drugs, allegedly to concentrate the mind and also expand it.
Years later he said: “I took trip after trip, sitting on my terrace in Greece, waiting to see God. Generally all I ended up with was a bad hangover.”
2. It’s never too late:
Fraud and embezzlement by his manager meant Leonard was forced to go back to touring when he was in his late 70s. Between 2008 and 2013 he was on tour more or less continuously – the highest grossing tours of his entire career.
3. Put your house in order:
It’s a cliché but true. Leonard says: “It’s underestimated as an analgesic on all levels. Putting your house in order….is one of the most comforting activities, and the benefits of it are incalculable.”
Update your affairs (personal and financial), mend fences, make decisions, get some control. Just like cleaning up your house.
4. Persistence is worth it:
Leonard’s career was in a slump when he wrote Hallelujah. It was slowly and painfully written over 5 years with 80 versus until he whittled it down to its current version.
His record company told him it wasn’t good enough to release.
Bob Dylan was one of the first musicians to embrace it – and then it went everywhere. Covered more then 300 times including Celine Dion, Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys, Bono, Boni Jovi, Willie Nelson, André Rieu, Jeff Buckley and Susan Boyle.
Not to mention every second episode of The Voice, and Australia’s Got Talent.
Salman Rushdie noted that only Cohen would rhyme “hallelujah” with “what’s it to ya?”
5. Creativity isn’t easy:
This is especially a good one.
No one lucked into creativity. EVER. It takes hard work and persistence.
Leonard explained his creative writing process as “a bear stumbling into a beehive……….getting stuck, it’s delicious, and it’s horrible and I’m in it and it’s not very graceful, and its very awkward and it’s very painful and yet there’s something inevitable about it.”
Well said Leonard.
6. Remember to lodge your tax return on time:
I confess, this isn’t a Leonard Lesson. It’s a Jacinta Lesson and I snuck it in while I have your attention!
Thank you Leonard for a lifetime of brilliance. And for all your lessons. They are a gift.
And if you can, grab a quiet moment now and play Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. It remains, forever, a masterpiece.