Saturday, March 07, 2009

Everything there is to say in one word


"I wish I could say everything there is to say in one word. I hate all the things that can happen between the beginning of a sentence and the end" said Leonard Cohen, seen above on the terrace of his house on the Greek island of Hydra.
Leonard Cohen is a superlative poet and songwriter. But unfortunate things do sometimes happen between the beginning of his sentences and the end. Born a Jew, he became interested in Buddhism, with its precept of the sanctity of all sentient life, in 1969, and was ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1996. In 1973 Cohen performed for Israeli troops in the Yom Kippur War. His words about this experience are an uncanny pre-echo of Stockhausen's thoughts on 9/11:
"And war is wonderful ... It's one of the few times people can act their best. It's so economical in terms of gesture and motion ... Everyone is responsible for his brother."
Despite his counterculture views Leonard Cohen continued to spend long periods in Greece after the military junta seized power in April 1967. Cohen defended his presence in Greece under the Colonels by saying that he did not see it as ...
"a betrayal of mankind to vacation in a country ruled by fascists...I had a house there, friends; I didn't consider my presence there a collabaration. It was the contrary."
Another leading musician had very different views on living in a country ruled by fascists.

Sources of quotes is Various Positions - A Life of Leonard Cohen by Ira B. Nadel, which was 'written with the full support and cooperation of Leonard Cohen'. Header image credit from CD The Essential Leonard Cohen, photographer Dominique Isserman. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

3 comments:

Pliable said...

Cohen's commitment to Zen, however was never at the expense of his Judaism. He told an Austrian journalist that "I am not a Buddhist, but a Jew." Despite more than a twenty-five-year involvement with Zen, a religion he once described to Nancy Bacal as "for the truly lost," he has constantly affirmed his Jewishness. Cohen may criticize the lack of a meditational dimension in Judaism and devote himself physically, as well as financially, to Zen, but he has never renounced his identity as a Jew.

Ira B. Nadel's Various Positions page 232.

sfmike said...

From Wikipedia: A Jewish Buddhist (also Jubu or Buju) is a person with a Jewish ethnic or religious background who practices forms of Buddhist meditation and spirituality. The term Jubu was first brought into wide circulation with the publication of "The Jew in the Lotus" by Rodger Kamenetz.

I attend a weekly outdoor peace vigil in San Francisco consisting of mostly elderly people who are a mixture of Quakers, Buddhists, Unitarians and Episcopalians with a few pagans like myself thrown in. What's struck me as interesting is how many of the Quakers, Buddhists and Unitarians are also Jewish, which is something I'd never heard of before.

Pliable said...

Mike, thanks for that insight.

I have been fascinated for a long time by the culture of Al-Andalus in the period 711 and 1492 when a large part of Spain was under Arab Muslim rule. During this period the monotheistic religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity co-existed peacefully and there was a flourishing of arts and science. Have we really progressed?

Stephen Batchelor's little book Buddhism Without Beliefs may also be of interest -

http://www.allenandunwin.com/default.aspx?page=94&book=9780747538431