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Anthem

Anthem

The birds they sing, at the break of day
Start again, I heard them say.
Don’t dwell on what has passed away
Or what is yet to be.

Yes, the wars, they will be fought again
The holy dove she will be caught again
Bought, and sold, and bought again
The dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs. The signs were sent
The birth betrayed. The marriage spent
Yeah, the widowhood of every government
Signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more, with that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places say their prayers out loud
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up a thundercloud
They’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

You can add up the parts; you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march, there is no drum
Every heart, every heart to love will come
But like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

On December 30th, Ros sent me the following note, "Ran across this on FB. Good advice for these days when it feels that nothing we do is enough" with the refrain from Leonard Cohen's song Anthem. After reading the lyrics to Cohen's song, I realized what a gift those words were. The idea that we need to ring bells that still can be rung, that the pursuit of perfection is a fruitless endeavor and that it's the cracks that allow the light to stream in provided some solace in a time of great uncertainty. I borrowed that refrain for my toast on New Year's Eve and it's been rambling around in my head ever since. 

2017 is a mixed blessing and when I focus on the new ground that the chaos will reveal, I'm hopeful but when I think of the true cost of rending our social fabric, it gives me pause. Joseph Campbell said 'you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs' and while I'm a big fan of a properly prepared omelette, I'm not sure what we're going to end up with: a tender, delicate omelette or an overcooked pile of madly scrambled eggs....or maybe something in between like a frittata?? 

Anthem is a song about hope in the midst of darkness and I was curious about what Cohen was seeking to convey in this poem set to music. Thanks to good old Google, I ran across this quote from a Leonard Cohen fan site that illuminated the essence of his lyrics. All hearts find their way to love, there is no perfect offering, and the cracks are simply spaces for redemption and resurrection....all concepts that resonate with me as I try to figure out how to move forward in a good way. When the landscape has been altered into something that seems foreign, we must remember that while there is no perfect offering or action; we have to rise up and attempt to save the world that's within our arm's reach. 

...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 of 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.

As it turns out, the business of life continues...even with President Trump. Meghan still plays volleyball, Charlie still needs rides to the ski hill, Sadie's still going to college this fall, Will found an apartment in Madison for next year, and Jack is planning his next steps after graduation. While it may seem like our nation has crossed a dark threshold (and on a macro level, we very well might have), the essence of who we are and how we deal with adversity is still very much intact. Trump is a clarion call and I intend to heed it. 

I'm choosing to believe in goodness. In the goodness that springs from standing up for what's right, from sitting down for dinner with friends and family, from keeping watch over my little corner of the world, from practicing kindness and forgiveness in the face of hate, from knowing that the Truth is never neutral, and for radically seeking common ground. I intend to be brave, truthful and compassionate in the days ahead. I intend to remember that some of my best lessons have been hand-delivered by some of the worst people/best teachers and this Trumpian reality may be exactly what our country needs. I'm not burying my head in the sand with my rose-colored glasses on, I intend to hold the line with everything I've got but I will filter my words and actions through those lenses of compassion, bravery and honesty. And like Cohen said:

"I can’t run no more, with that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places say their prayers out loud
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up a thundercloud
They’re going to hear from me."

It's time to get started.