Sunday, January 13, 2019

Words to sustain a journey

I came across these words the other day and they have burrowed their way into me.

'I lost my way. I forgot to call on your name. The raw heart beat against the world, and the tears were for lost victory. But you are here. You have always been here. The world is all forgetting and the heart is a rage of directions, but your name unifies the heart, and the world is lifted into its place. Blessed is the one who waits in the traveller's heart for his turning.'

They are by Leonard Cohen from a collection of his published in the Everyman's Library of Pocket Poets (Alfred Knopf 1993).

Cohen has been a constant companion on my journey since his first album became the second album I acquired when I was still at school (I still have it, though I generally play its songs on an iPod these days).

He is the poet of the journey, the surveyor of the human heart, and has frequently been able to put into words what I am feeling long before I can. I especially like the phrase in this piece, 'the heart is a rage of directions' that seems to capture the experience of being pulled in a range of directions about which we feel emotionally engaged; it nails the sense of wanting to focus on everything at once but feeling only impotent and angry at our ability to do so.

Cohen has also always been a poet of faith. His faith is never anything but vague and suggestive, a voice suggesting that God might be interested in us, but I have always found that he has helped me to connect with that God when some more traditional or contemporary faith songs have not.

I'm not sure any of today's hymn writers have come close to penning a line as suggestive of who and where God is as 'Blessed is the one who waits in the traveller's heart for his turning.'

Leonard is a reminder that we are not alone on the journey; he points us to the one who is our constant companion even when we are blissfully unaware of his presence with us, within us.

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