Ann Diamond | November 30, 2016 | 65 comments
For many women, Leonard Cohen represents the perfect imaginary lover.
Multiply those thousand kisses by the 4,000 women he boasted of having over the course of his life. And think about what that does to a man, just for a moment – not to mention the damage to the women.
I don't always appreciate the worshipful way people talk about him. It's disorienting for people who knew him as the real, screwed up guy he was – in fact, without his screwed-up-ness he would have been totally boring. He did not present himself in a superior light to those he met – in fact, he preferred to come across as a hunchback or leper – that was his style, his charm, his peculiar calling in life. He treated people as equals. Except secretly, of course, he must have wanted to be worshiped, because at the end of his life he had millions of fans around the world speaking of him in breathless superlatives. On the surface, he was well-spoken and polite, like some incarnated Buddha radiating holy wisdom with every thought, word, and deed. He worked his way into our souls, through a lifetime of misery.
People simply can't fathom his catastrophic negativity, that some could sense from a distance. His criminal mind, disguised in a suit, speaking in rhymes like a page from some Victorian tome. How, for years, almost nobody in his home town liked him, and most avoided him like a rare disease carrier. And how, to this day, although people miss him, many are probably as relieved as I am that he's gone. My relief, on hearing the news, outweighed the shock. I couldn't squeeze out a single tear. I felt his life had been strange and tragic, his success covering up real dismal failure. I felt glad that he no longer had to contain all the contradictions that had dogged him and that in vanishing had finally gone home, to be with the Roshi, and become One. Now we will experience him only through his songs, which will play on – without needing wonder where those tortured notes originated. His extreme emotions which he hid carefully – anger, self-hatred, pride, despair – also are gone with the wind.
I'm grateful to have known him, but mostly he was a load of trouble that constantly needed sorting out. He was a puzzle to men and a scourge to women, and lived to disappoint the people he struggled to love. Now he's finally at peace, in the ground where he can't torment us with his never-ending guilt and unspeakable secrets. The truth about him would freeze your heart, or maybe save your life. It's the truth we should be focusing on, not the fairy tale. I'm just glad I no longer have to witness him dying over decades, failing to answer his koan, giving those endless repetitive interviews of elegant profundity as his inner world shrank. He has gone to meet his Maker, or his Mom, in a place that is not heaven. It's probably some workhouse where they'll put him to work repairing broken toys or sewing up souls whose hearts he ripped out while alive. I'm sure he'll be fully employed, labouring among the demons who encouraged and controlled him from the Other Side. If a mythology must be built, let's make it an adult blend of dark and light – not the Disney version.
All this does not prevent me from feeling a kind of love for him in his absence. That's how old I've gotten. He was probably the most ravaged soul I have encountered in this world, and I suspect it's not the last time. But for now I'll just say goodbye, Leonard. Thanks for letting me get that close. I hope you're finally free of that murdering cabal.
And for the trolls who keep spamming the Comments:
A FEW OBSERVATIONS BASED ON DECADES OF LIVING NEXT DOOR, OR AROUND THE CORNER, OR UP THE STREET FROM LEONARD COHEN AS WE SHARED A NEIGHBOURHOOD AND A NUMBER OF CONTACTS:
* He lied often, e.g. in order to manage situations that he had created. He used his loyal followers to help him manage his complicated affairs. When confronted with his own lies, he was brilliant and elusive.
* He turned his nannies and other women into accomplices in his sometimes unconscionable, secretive behaviour.
* He was a drug addict and alcoholic – he used drugs and booze to mask his depression. How much of his depression was really guilt caused by having to live with the consequences of his own actions, whether he remembered them clearly or not?
* He lied about Kelley Lynch whom he accused of stealing his money. This has never been proved in a court of law.
* He lied to the Roshi about his real reasons for going to India in 2000. They had nothing to do with 'spiritual enlightenment'.
* While adopting an image as a peaceful, impeccably kind and reasonable sage, he absolutely believed in violence. He owned guns and was trained in using them. How does that align with his public image?
* He had a number of apparently separate personalities – with different goals, different relationships, and secret histories. The likely cause of his dissociative behaviour is the documented fact that he was a victim of CIA mind control at one of the leading institutions where this program was created. He was probably a Manchurian Candidate since he went on missions to Cuba, Greece, and Ethiopia. He hid these facts about his early career while sometimes mentioning them in his writing, private conversations, etc.
* He was skilled at psychological warfare techniques including 'gaslighting' – which he used on many people, including myself, for years. He also understood the uses of gossip and 'fake news', particularly to discredit people he was close to. He both created chaos around him and meticulously managed it.
I'll be exploring these topics further in the second edition of THE MAN NEXT DOOR. Coming soon. (Paintings by Dianne Lawrence and David Wilson)
Leonard Cohen and MKULTRA - Military Mind Control at McGill and Columbia - Experiments with Sensory Isolation and LSD - Allan Memorial Institute, Montreal - British-Trained Eugenicists
Leonard Cohen, The Guerrilla in the Room: Jasun Horsley Interviews Ann Diamond