Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
From “Anthem”, by Leonard Cohen
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the connections and contrasts between knowledge and poetry, religion and art, theology and food, and spirituality and music. I am no ascetic; I don’t think that material beauty is just something that speaks to our shallow desires for pleasure and distracts us from more important things, but rather that it is more fundamentally a crack in the purity of our minds that allows us to breathe and live. Beauty creates an opening into the objective clarity of logic, nous, and intellect and, yes, disrupts it all with something fallible, subjective, personal, uncertain, and fragile, but also simultaneously offers us a place to rest in our pain and imperfection, keeping us from closing ourselves off to the world, to others, and to a truth that exceeds the limits of our understanding and clear articulation (be that truth the infinite complexity of scientific truth or the infinite simplicity of spirituality).
Leonard Cohen’s music, in particular, captures this dual mission perfectly, digging into our wounds and applying a salve. His words have inspired so many not just to enjoy his music, but to embody it, singing and playing his songs themselves, not just passively receiving their beauty, but taking them on directly and productively.
Here are two wonderful covers of some of Cohen’s most famous songs.