That is the background of the whole record, I mean if you have to come up with a philosophical ground, that is. “Ring the bells that still can ring.” It’s no excuse… the dismal situation.. and the future is no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards yourself and your job and your love. “Ring the bells that still can ring”: they’re few and far between but you can find them. “Forget your perfect offering”, that is the hang-up, that you’re gonna work this thing out. Because we confuse this idea and we’ve forgotten the central myth of our culture which is the expulsion from the garden of Eden. This situation does not admit of solution or perfection. This is not the place where you make things perfect, neither in your marriage, nor in your work, nor anything, nor your love of God, nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect. And worse, there is a crack in everything that you can put together, physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things.
— Leonard Cohen on the meaning of ‘Anthem’, from Diamonds in the Line
I was glad to come across this reflection on Anthem. It is one of my favourite Cohen songs. I am going to see him in June in Toronto… can’t wait. I actually contacted his manager to ask if I could use the line, “there is a crack in everything… that’s where the light gets in” as an epigraph for my novel. They gave me permission. I love his explanation for the line.
Thanks for sharing this…
Came across this looking for the lyric, after seeing Cohen tonight in concert. Still higher than a kite from the sheer exhilaration of seeing this man of such great character perform, and the giddy but tender adulation showered upon him by the audience. His dignity and generosity in every aspect of the concert were testament to his understanding of divine grace, however much he still struggles to search it out and define it for himself. Indeed, it is through the cracks that the light gets in.
A great little review. Much appreciated. I’m glad he’s still got it. Where was the concert?
Concert was in Toronto at the Sony Centre. I only found out about it a couple days before, and got tickets by a fluke. He has changed quite a bit– lost a lot of weight but also moves differently on stage, took a bit of adjusting to. But the gentle ironic humour and suave demeanour are intact, as is the humility of someone genuinely searching for answers and knowing how little one knows. His band is superb, and they went from 8:00 till 11:00 with one intermission, including about 8 songs in 2 encores. It was beyond bliss. Has my wife and me scheming to change our summer vacation to Italy in July to see him again. (He and Paul Simon (someone else who knows a lot about grace) are playing on subsequent nights in Rome!)
Leonard is the greatest…