A Lazy Bastard Living in a Suit: Leonard Cohen’s “Old Ideas” is Superb!

(See the lyrics for “Different Sides” below).

This is the best Cohen since Ten New Songs.

Now I enjoy Dear Heather too. “There for You,” for example, is a powerful dharma tune with a biting double meaning as an old Zen dog, long-time practitioner with Sasaki-roshi, shows his zazen heart.

But on my Omaha road trip last weekend, I listened to his new offerings on Old Ideas. Repeatedly. The old boy delivers on every track with irony, longing, biting self-reflection and humor:

I know it really is a pity
The way you treat me now
I know you can’t forgive me
But forgive me anyhow (“Anyhow”)

And …

I got no future,
I know my days are few.
The presents not that pleasant,
Just a lot of things to do (“The Darkness”)

“I’m just a brief elaboration of a tube,” sings Leonard in “Going Home.” And also from “Going Home:”

I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard
Living in a suit

My current favorite, though, is “Different Sides.” Now if you think this is only a relationship song, well, “…we find ourselves on different sides of a line nobody drew.”

Seems more like Genesis to me:

32:24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.

The whole thing is permeated with what Cohen calls “a blessed fatigue.” Sounds like a mature human being to me.

We find ourselves on different sides
Of a line nobody drew
Though it all may be one in the higher eye
Down here where we live it is two
I to my side call the meek and the mild
You to your side call the Words
By virtue of suffering I claim to have won
You claim to have never been heard
Both of us say there are laws to obey
Yeah, but frankly I don’t like your tone
You want to change the way I make love
(But) I want to leave it alone
The pull of the moon, the thrust of the sun
Thus the ocean is crossed
The waters are blessed while a shadowy guest
Kindles a light for the lost
Both of us say there are laws to obey
But frankly I don’t like your tone
You want to change the way I make love
But) I want to leave it alone
Down in the valley the famine goes on
The famine up on the hill
I say that you shouldn’t, you couldn’t, you can’t
You say that you must and you will
You want to live where the suffering is
I want to get out of town
Come on, baby, give me a kiss
Stop writing everything down….

Dogen Did Not Practice Shikantaza and Even Had a Gaining Idea
BTW, We Have to Remove Your Feet: Being Mortal, Waking Up, and Dying Together
The Way of Tenderness: the Form and Emptiness of Race, Sexuality, and Gender
Practicing Through Snow and Cold (or Whatever Afflictions May Visit)
  • Thomas Martin

    Surely it’s ‘brief elaboration of a tune’? Tube doesn’t make sense. Never mind the sleeve notes.

    • doshoport

      Hmm. Just listened again and sounds like “tube” – like an elongated skin bag…


    • Adrian Ratnapala

      We are all tubes. From gobhole to the other hole. Learn some gardening and say hello to you cousin the earthworm.

  • David Clark

    Yes, I’ve listen closely many times already, I’m pretty sure it’s tube. As in every living organism is a brief elaboration of a tube. The rest is fancy trimmings.

    I too love this album. “Old Ideas”. Old Ideas? It’s about time!

  • http://www.thewritingvein.com dot

    I am enjoying this cd. Repeatedly, as well. Good stuff *smile*

  • Karen

    It’s “You to your side called the Word”
    as in:
    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
    And all that perspective implies.

    • doshoport

      Ah, yes. Apparently the internet is unreliable after all!

  • David Clark

    Say it’s not so!