When I saw that Leonard Cohen passed away last week, I followed roughly the same path I tend to follow for most celebrity deaths (of celebrities whom I admire): hop on the internet, soak in their art for a bit, feel an overwhelming, bittersweet nostalgia for someone I’ve never met, rekindle my love for them and their work, then hop off of the internet because it’s exhausting. I hopped off sooner than I usually do for Cohen, though, because the election was still everywhere. It was a week (and month and year) that left me morally repulsed, emotionally drained, and sensorially depleted. I turned off the TV and the WiFi and listened to Cohen’s music and read his poetry.
Somewhere around the 14th time listening to Hallelujah, I remembered and rediscovered my favorite Cohen quote:
It’s very difficult to untangle influences because you represent the sum of everything you’ve seen or heard or experienced.
There I was, running away from the endlessly (mis)informative and apocalyptic (a-political-yptic?) internet rabbit hole, craving isolation, when I was reminded of how deeply embedded our influences are in our being. It was a beautiful thing: Cohen, the Zen Buddhist who once spent five years in silent retreat, reminding me of our interwoven, impossibly tangled web of influences. When all I wanted was to turn off the election coverage and heal (and numb myself with Season 5 of The Office for the 11th time), I was reminded that we are what we consume—and that it’s, like, OK to choose what we consume (and how we consume it) when we can choose.
I choose to mostly watch comedy over other genres because of its infectious joy.
I choose to listen to music like Bon Iver’s 22, A Million because of its hopefulness towards uncertainty.
I choose to avoid folks who interrupt and don’t truly listen, who mindlessly compare people and things without seeing them for what they are.
I choose to mostly listen to curious, compassionate podcasts like Krista Tippett’s On Being.
I often choose to watch sports with the games muted ’cause there’s too much noise and ’cause it’s more fun to provide improv commentary.
So here’s to Leonard Cohen. Here’s to Kate McKinnon. And here’s to appreciating just how sponge-like we are.
There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen