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That’s How Light Gets In- Hope From Leonard

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how light gets in.

Anne Lamott uses those lines from Leonard Cohen’s Anthem, as a metaphor for how her life was changed. Struggling with substance abuse, an unwanted pregnancy and her father’s terminal illness, Lamott describes the situation ….
“I was cracking up. It was like a cartoon when something gets hit and one crack appears, which spider webs outward until the whole vase is cracked and hangs suspended for a moment before falling into a pile of powder on the floor.”

In her book Traveling Mercies, Lamott talks about how God’s love, and the compassionate care of the people in her church, acted as a kind of light, seeping through the cracks, helping patch together the pieces of her broken, suspended existence before she could crumple into oblivion.

Many people have similar experiences. Their situations may not always be as desperate or dramatic as Ms. Lamott’s, but for one reason or another they feel like their lives are cracking apart. Who will help them glue the shattered bits together before they turn to “powder on the floor”?

The bell outside the school we taught at on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona.

The bell outside the school we taught at on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona.

I once watched an accomplished craftswoman on the Hopi Indian reservation in Arizona make a clay pot. She used broken bits from her less than perfect creations to build a little oven in which to fire her latest work. The shattered pieces from her flawed products played a necessary role in the creation of something new. Ernest Hemingway said, “ the world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”

The Biblical character Joseph comes to a breaking point in his life. Motherless, hated by his brothers, sold into slavery and falsely accused of sexual misconduct he lands up in prison. In the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote these words for Joseph to sing from the cell where he is incarcerated  “ Close every door to me, Hide all the world from me. Bar all the windows and shut out the light.”
Yet somehow the light seeps through the bars of his cell. Joseph is able to put his life back together. The new, wiser Joseph heals the cracks in his relationship with his brothers and creates a more hopeful future for his family. The most broken area of his life is made strong.

Ringing the peace bell in Hiroshima

Ringing the peace bell in Hiroshima

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “there is a crack in everything God has made and not least of all in each one of us.” During this time of uncertainty in our world may we look for ways to let the light shine in through the cracks and broken places in our lives. May we be the kind of people who despite our own less than perfect offerings, try to bring the light of God’s healing love to others.

Other posts…..

Lessons From Leonard

Elegance From the Earth- Hopi Pottery

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Lessons From Leonard

I enjoyed an excellent concert by Canadian music icon Leonard Cohen Friday night. The show was at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre and I was lucky enough to be there along with thousands of other Manitoba music enthusiasts. What lessons did I learn from Cohen as I watched him perform?  Leonard is 78, nearly two decades older than me. I hope as I age I can emulate him in some ways. Like Leonard I want to……….

1) Keep physically fit. I’d be happy to have even half his energy and stamina. The very trim singer and poet stood on stage for over three hours performing song after song. He often struck a prayerful pose, getting down on his knees and then getting up with more grace and agility then would be possible for most people many years his junior. He almost skipped off stage at one point. In his black suit, white shirt, bolo tie and signature fedora he looked very physically fit and attractive indeed, lean and craggy.

2) Keep being creative. Leonard is still writing new songs and poetry. He could easily rest on his laurels and live off the profits of his numerous hits.  He performed some of his classic signature pieces at his Winnipeg concert including Bird On a Wire, Suzanne, Anthem and the iconic Hallelujah. But he has also released a new album recently called Old Ideas and he performed songs from it as well like Anyhow, Show Me the Place and Going Home.

3) Keep spiritually in tune.  Leonard is a practicing Buddhist but the Jewish faith of his family remains very important to him. The lyrics of many of the songs he performed in Winnipeg attest to his knowledge of the Bible, his belief that faith and hope can heal us and his desire for a world where we value mercy and forgiveness. As I listened to the beautiful If It Be Your Will I whispered to my sister, whose guest I was at the concert, “This sounds just like a hymn.”

4) Keep humble. Leonard was of course the star of the show on Friday night but he didn’t hog centre stage, rather he repeatedly acknowledged the work of the talented musicians and singers who accompanied him, introducing them by name at least four times during the evening and giving them an opportunity to showcase their considerable musical gifts in various songs. He individually thanked all his instrument, lighting and sound technicians. Very classy! Leonard also paid tribute to Canadian music legends George Jones, Tom Connors and Rita MacNeil who have all passed away in the last few months.

5) Keep appreciating the beauty of love. Leonard is the master of the romantic song and when his incredibly deep, husky and oh yes, sexy voice sang I’m Your Man, Dance Me to the End of Love and There Ain’t No Cure For Love I’m sure most of the women in the audience had tears in their eyes. I know I did!

6) Keep on being grateful. I don’t know how many times Leonard thanked the audience during his concert. He was genuinely appreciative of our presence and made sure we knew it. In an article in an Atlantic City arts magazine Cohen is described as having an abiding gratitude about his success as a musician.

There are probably some things about Leonard Cohen’s life, like all our lives, that aren’t exemplary, but watching him perform on April 26th I learned six valuable and inspiring lessons. Thanks Leonard!

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