It’s with an incredibly heavy heart that I bring you this week’s muse. It comes a little early. And it comes without editing. The news of Leonard Cohen’s death pains me.It’s a loss to song. It’s a loss to words. It’s a loss to the world. So please. Indulge me while I exalt the most incomparable poet that’s ever come into the popular culture. And allow me to grieve with my anecdotes as I’m off to spend the night listening to the sound of his voice and eating ice cream. And crying. And I feel no shame for that. Nor should I.
I think my first introduction to Cohen was by proxy. Jeff Buckley was the sort of artist I was into at the time, though Jeff died when I was a toddler. And like most people, I knew Hallelujah. Jeff made it another kind of beautiful. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered Leonard’s own version of his masterpiece. And I got it on a level that I didn’t before. All the pain. Jeff always sounded like he was in agony or ecstasy. Leonard was something different entirely. Something that drew me in in a completely different way. It wasn’t always pretty. It wasn’t always easy to understand. It wasn’t always easy to listen to, but by God, it was real. That was what struck me about him as I dove deeper and deeper into him. His work enveloped me. It was heartbreak. It was beauty. It was everything you need from an artist. Everything you want from a person.
Cohen’s lyrics read like the most beautiful poetry you’ve ever known. Like a heavyweight poet. That’s what he was to me. That’s what I want him to be for everyone. That’s what he deserves to be remembered as. A great poet. A great artist. A great songwriter. A great singer. And a truly great man. And he deserves to be missed by everyone as viscerally as it’s hit me right now.
So. What can we learn from this great man? Words matter. Feelings matter. Stories matter. Art matters. Love matters. The truth matters. Being vulnerable matters. We’re nothing without these things. And it’s these that he leaves us with. People who stand still never know what it feels like to be ever-reaching, like he was. The constant search for enlightenment. To be not better than another man or woman, but to better yourself through this exploration. To know yourself better. To know what art and beauty really mean to you and why the fuck it matters. To always want to know what’s on the next horizon. I suppose now he’s finding out. The beautiful man. The true artist.
In closing, I’d like to offer a thought that’s probably a shoddy rephrasing of something someone else said once. A true artist never truly dies. Though their passing pains us. Their work is what’s become of them.Their work will live forever. And that ought to be some sort of comfort. But I guess it just isn’t right now. Maybe someday. Until then–