Yesterday, before I even heard the British election results, I was driving around listening to Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows”:
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long-stem rose
There’s a 1965 Canadian documentary called Ladies and Gentleman… Mr. Leonard Cohen, which follows the poet and songwriter around at the age of 30. At one point they show him having this irreverent exchange during a TV interview (this clip really reminds me of Bob Dylan in Don’t Look Back, which was shot around the same time):
INTERVIEWER: How can you write poetry if you’re not bothered by something?
COHEN: I’m bothered. When I get up in the morning, my real concern is to discover whether or not I’m in a state of grace. And if I make that investigation and discover that I’m not in a state of grace, I try to go to bed.
INTERVIEWER: What do you mean by a state of grace?
COHEN: A state of grace is that kind of balance with which you ride the chaos that you find around you. It’s not a matter of resolving the chaos, because there’s something arrogant and warlike about putting the world in order.
Later in the day, I was talking to a friend on the phone about the cognitive dissonance between the long-term prospects of civilization, which are grim, and the present-day experiences of our day-to-day lives, which are quite good.
“God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”
Just half an hour ago, Sam Sifton posted his mother’s obituary. Elizabeth Sifton said this about The Serenity Prayer, which was popularized by her father, the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:
Every single day one has to think, ‘Is this something that I should accept with serenity, or is this something I should try to change?’ That’s the deep conundrum that serious people think about all the time.
Filed under: grace