Symbolism of 'Different Sides'

Leonard Cohen's previous album (January 2012)
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daka
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Re: Symbolism of 'Different Sides'

Postby daka » Sat Dec 14, 2013 7:25 am

in Zen, when we become aware that something occurs that needn't be talked to death, we lay our upright hands palm against palm, and press them together with our forearms in a straight horizontal line, and use this as a non-existing staff to lean on, and thus bow in the presence of that which occurs — occurs on both sides of our perception.
(And I do feel honoured.):
Jean, this description sounds very much to me like what is called "The I/Thou moment" in Psychotherapy. Martin Buber was the person who wrote about this. When I was a practicing psychotherapist I was fortunate to have experienced and observed these moments in one-to-one encounters and also in group situations. These were pre-Buddhist days for me when Hedonism was my religion but I did know that something holy was happening. A hunger for that holiness began manifesting in my mind and within a few years I was on a path.

____()____ S.
If you become the ocean you will not become seasick....Jikan (aka Leonard Cohen)

It's comin' from the feel that this ain't exactly real, or it's real, but it ain't exactly there! . Jikan
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Jean Fournell
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Re: Symbolism of 'Different Sides'

Postby Jean Fournell » Sun Dec 15, 2013 1:32 am

Sean,

without having done more than briefly look into the internet in order to find out who Martin Buber was and about his distinction between "I/Thou" and "I/it", I can by no means pretend to have understood a lifetime of philosophical research and work. Please excuse my shortcomings in the following.

To this very limited comprehension of mine, Buber's "I/Thou" seems to be something like the normal relationship between equals meeting on equal eye-level, one of the two (or the group) being myself.
"I/it" on the other hand would then be something like the normal relationship between myself and this computer on which I am writing this post, myself being the boss, and the wayward machine obeying me at times and driving me crazy at other times.
So far so good.

Now, in dire circumstances, somebody might think "I must help our relationship", instead of thinking "I must help my partner in this or that specific job, like driving the kids to school".
And therefore that person needs psychotherapy.

My dictionary gives the English "to reify" for the French "chosifier". The Latin word "res" means "thing", as does the French "chose".
To reduce a person to a thing, all the more so to reduce a relationship (in which oneself is involved) to a thing, is equivalent to armchair-travelling on a map — as long as one is aware that this is not for real.
But in personal matters, often this "not for real" tends to escape one's mind, and without further a-do one finds oneself in a "I/it" situation, illusory in objective reality, but taken for granted in one's own personal belief. (In fairy-tales, people are sometimes turned into stones.)

The problem is, formally speaking, akin to the Epimenides-paradox: Epimenides, a native of the isle of Crete, says "All Cretans are liars."
Instead of understanding himself in a "I/Thou" situation (he and the other Cretans and the rest of the world), he puts himself not on a meta-"I/it"-level ("I am all-the-Cretans", different from "I am their elected spokesman"), but on a meta-meta-"I/it"-level ("I am beyond all-the-Cretans"). Outside. (In reality, he is and remains inside all-the-Cretans.)
Megalomania.
Confusion of level, meta-level, and meta-meta-level.

Some practise this kind of confusion in order to gain power. Illusory power. (Unless they use arms: then it is illusory power based on terror.)

Some out of helplessness: They conceive that there is all-of-it, and call it God, and put themselves above Him, and speak about Him, and for Him, and tell Him what to do (from their illusory meta-meta-level).
Or even put Him above all-of-it ("He's got the whole world in His hand") and then themselves above Him (on a meta-meta-meta-level).
For Abrahamic monotheists, this is forbidden. (He forbade them to misuse His name.)
For us a-theists (I know, most commonly this term means "anti-theists", but that conception is talkative non-sense), this is just some armchair-travelling of a sometimes automated mind, to be called back to reason occasionally, lest it go haywire.
("Both of us say there are laws to obey")

In some Pilgrim's Progress of my own I say (if I may try to translate my own prose):
He who (...) replaces the alterity of the other by alienation — reifies him —, leaves our common basis (...), turns the logical function of negation against body and spirit, becomes himself a logical function of power, which might certainly lead to submission, but which finds the access barred to the ground of the living.
And later:
For just like out of nothing occurs something, the other, together with the something of the other your own something occurs.

"O see the darkness yielding
That tore the light apart
Come healing of the reason
Come healing of the heart"

In physics, light can tear darkness apart, not vice versa.
In suffering and confusion, yes, it is this way around.

("Both of us say there are laws to obey")

"Down here where we live it is two":

Hard to accept that we live inside the world?
That there's no way of pulling the strings from outside?
That we are not God?

That we have the tremendous privilege of being tempted to commit all kinds of non-sense, and of being entitled to see through this mecanism, and to do just like the rest of the world: laugh about the fundamental joke?
"Doo dum dum dum, doo dee dum dum dum..."

That we are given cojones?
___________________________________________________
Therefore know that you must become one with the bow, and with the arrow, and with the target
to say nothing of the horse.

... for a while
... for a little while...

(Just a filthy beggar blessing / What happens to the heart)
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daka
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Re: Symbolism of 'Different Sides'

Postby daka » Sun Dec 15, 2013 5:11 am

How delightful to have met you Monsieur

____()____ S.

You have enabled an series of wide insomniacal smiles and de-light laughs (the laughs about the fundamental joke) at 1:30 am, having just awoken much too early to face a demanding day of communal scholarly a-theistic delights. (3 hours sleep). My early morning seriousness resonded beautifully to your commentary.

Thank you for your incisive, succinct, creative, poetic and powerful synthesis of the human dilemna; from powerlessnes (cojoneslessness), fear, confusion and delusion, and a megalomaniacal obsession with control; as you pointed out the mistaken survival strategy of omni-reification becomes a self-generating megalomaniacal virtual theistic role to play, usually for too long a time.

My few critical experiences of un-reification of other beings (I-Thou moments) felt like liberating optimistic experiences. I imputed "door" on these experiences and did gradually wander from the path of hedonistic refication to the path where I heard the teachings of the "Able One" whose guiding compassionate motivation was/is to lythiumize this terrible psychosis with the medication of ultimate truth and infinite virtues.

____()____ S.
If you become the ocean you will not become seasick....Jikan (aka Leonard Cohen)

It's comin' from the feel that this ain't exactly real, or it's real, but it ain't exactly there! . Jikan
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Jean Fournell
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Re: Symbolism of 'Different Sides'

Postby Jean Fournell » Sun Dec 15, 2013 7:07 pm

"In fact a burden lifted from my soul
I heard that love was out of my control
A heavy burden lifted from my soul
I learned that love was out of my control"

(Paper-thin Hotel)

Love under one's control is not love.
___________________________________________________
Therefore know that you must become one with the bow, and with the arrow, and with the target
to say nothing of the horse.

... for a while
... for a little while...

(Just a filthy beggar blessing / What happens to the heart)
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daka
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Re: Symbolism of 'Different Sides'

Postby daka » Mon Dec 16, 2013 12:55 pm

Can you "..say a little more", Jean

____()____ S.
If you become the ocean you will not become seasick....Jikan (aka Leonard Cohen)

It's comin' from the feel that this ain't exactly real, or it's real, but it ain't exactly there! . Jikan
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Jean Fournell
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Re: Symbolism of 'Different Sides'

Postby Jean Fournell » Mon Dec 16, 2013 9:44 pm

The control-addict, whom you mention, Sean, lives in an Epimenides-like paradox.

In the Paper-thin Hotel, our pilgrim hears and learns this lesson. But: Good riddance!
"And you turn in disgust / from your hatred and from your love"
(Light As The Breeze)

The lesson you are inside, not outside is still a lesson administered by a shrink.
Real life, as everybody strives to find, minus "a heavy burden", is still a bearable-but-diminished life.

"Going home / without my burden
Going home / behind the curtain"

"Going home / to where it's better / than before"

If the "outside" can't be found outside, well, then we'll have to find it inside; it must be someplace, after all; we just haven't searched hard enough.
More of the same...

Pain is pain.
Physical pain, nervous pain, mental pain, spiritual pain — is pain.

Pain, however, as seen from the illusory outside, from where the suicide wants to see himself without his pain, that kind of pain is: pain, plus the revolt against pain, equals suffering.

"You want to live where the suffering is":

That's where the bodhisattva vows to live, leaving the personal salvation to the arhat, and remaining on site until all the sufferers, simultaneously, together, take the step beyond the beyond, beyond this hellish "outside", and that means into the inside of the world.

Yes, home.
But not behind a curtain.
Not without the burden: With the burden of suffering, minus "outside" and revolt and shrink-pedagogics, equals simple pain (and even that only on occasion).

Beyond the One-ness, my dear brethren and brethresses, into duality, into reality.

Your searching itself was the nightmare.

Rainer Maria Rilke says in "Die Irren — The Mad":

Und sie schweigen, weil die Scheidewände
weggenommen sind aus ihrem Sinn,
und die Stunden, da man sie verstände,
heben an und gehen hin.

(And they're silent, for the separation
walls have been removed out of their mind,
and the hours where one'd understand them,
they arise and pass away.)

And now just look at this prison-cell which those two shrink-fellows locked you into.
The barren field they tell you is the land of your fathers — isn't it?
Those ruins: "It was you who built the temple" (Lover Lover Lover).
Oh, and that mean icky thing there? Yes, of course it is the Holy Grail you've been searching for all the time. What else could it be, you nitwit!
Who do you think those two fellows are, that brought you here, stupid!
They are your feet, two weary trustworthy reliable guides and carriers you've been insulting and cursing and fighting all these years!
They brought you "outside" because you ordered them to, and they couldn't help it. And now they've brought you beyond the paradox because we all have taken that step.

And at present you go and clean up this mess, and then there is a job at hand:
— What is zen?
— Have you eaten?
— Yes.
— Then wash your bowl.

Different sides. Ordinary-day life. That's what zen is.
Not more. No outside. No walking on the water without knowing where the stepping-stones are. No tricks.
You can fiddle around with all that meta-stuff of yours once you'll have learned how to get rid of your resulting fiddlesticks — if then you really still feel like toying like that.

"Before zen, mountains are mountains, and waters are waters — during zen, mountains are not mountains, and waters are not waters — after zen, mountains again are mountains, and waters again are waters." is a popular mis-quote of Ch'in-yuan Wei-hsin (Seigen Ishin).

Correctly: "Before zen, mountains are mountains, and waters are waters — during zen, mountains are not mountains, and waters are not waters — after zen, mountains really are mountains, and waters really are waters."

However: "And she says, Drink deeply, pilgrim / but don't forget there's still a woman / beneath this resplendent chemise" (Light As The Breeze)
Not less. Zen after zen.

Duality: "You want me to change the way I make love" and "I don't like your tone".
Epimenides, the elected spokesman of the Cretans, arguing with the elected spokesman of a neighbouring isle about some fishing grounds. Different sides. Peace or war, but no paradox.
Ordinary-day life with different sides in it. Paradox outside. Different sides on that side, too.

If a teacher does not pick up the disciple where he is, the thing won't work. So the teacher must learn from the disciple.
If a teacher does not know how the disciple learns, the thing still won't work. So the teacher must anew and anew learn from the disciple.
Therefore the teacher must be the disciple's disciple.
Different sides.

And when the disciple in turn has become a teacher, he must not only teach his teacher, but he must also teach his disciple, while being the disciple of his teacher and being the disciple of his disciple.

Therefore "in the higher eye" teacher and disciple are one. And on a different side, "down here", they are on different sides.

No more "Good riddance". No more "turn[ing] in disgust" from whatsoever.
No more shrink-pedagogics, no more hide-and-seek.
No more prison-cell; the Holy Grail resorbed.
The separating walls restored, as well as the doors to walk through to different sides.
The temple no more God or Buddha turned into stone or gold.

The world really the world. Around us. New. In all its splendour.
With all its different sides.

A place where Man is entitled to become a man.

Legend has it, that one day the buddha Siddharta Gautama, in the circle of his followers, picked a flower and rotated it by the stem between his thumb and forefinger. Nobody reacted, except Mahakashyapa: he smiled.
That is said to have been the direct transmission from one buddha to the next.

"Different Sides" is Leonard Cohen seeing a flower being rotated by the stem between thumb and forefinger, and smiling. The direct transmission has taken place.

(Unless you believe me, of course, which would be a shame. But if you have read all my gibberish so far, I cherish a reasonable hope that you're beyond believing what others tell you.)
___________________________________________________
Therefore know that you must become one with the bow, and with the arrow, and with the target
to say nothing of the horse.

... for a while
... for a little while...

(Just a filthy beggar blessing / What happens to the heart)
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Jean Fournell
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Re: Symbolism of 'Different Sides'

Postby Jean Fournell » Tue Dec 17, 2013 7:27 pm

Mind you:

In a zen-monastery, gibberish like my last post would probably entail one or another variation of

"Don't scatter your dirty things in here!"

And rightly so.
___________________________________________________
Therefore know that you must become one with the bow, and with the arrow, and with the target
to say nothing of the horse.

... for a while
... for a little while...

(Just a filthy beggar blessing / What happens to the heart)
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Jean Fournell
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Location: Provence

Re: Symbolism of 'Different Sides'

Postby Jean Fournell » Sat Dec 21, 2013 9:22 pm

On the northern half of this planet — which we've borrowed from future generations and are busy messing up, in order to restitute it along with an anti-boredom-program for them to have some cleaning up to do — the nights will now become colder, but also shorter.

And the days are now getting longer, and soon even the law will have to admit that a new year has begun.

In between, let me give a friendly thought to the view that "Different Sides" is about a sexual relationship and its concomitants.

"The pull of the moon the thrust of the sun": they allow the crossing of the gulf that separates woman and man.
"The waters are blessed": this ocean of the holy juices of woman being joined by those of man.
"while a shadowy guest / kindles a light for the lost":
A light at the end of a nine-month-tunnel, at the "issue of her womb".
Life itself — that which nobody has yet been able to define correctly, occurring now for reasons hiding in the cloud of unknowing, whilst at other moments not occurring for reasons sometimes likewise unknown — Life itself kindles a light.

Call it nine months of waiting for one lost drop, individuating from the ocean of the Collective Soul taking part in the Primordial Covenant, "asking to be born", to incarnate in the new-born one;
or call it "the Word [becoming] a man" in order to prove its own relativity, thus redeeming humankind from a flaw it never had;
or call it one specific soul reincarnating because of karma-traces hurling it back into samsara ("True love leaves no traces");
or call it one more manifestation of the nature-of-buddha, joining its other manifestations;
or simply call it a baby discovering the light of the world:
— whichever way you wish, but now "there are laws to obey"!

A child needs guidelines, yes — but what kind of?
Nobody has the ultimate knowledge, nobody can speak for Life itself, and therefore there has been a lot of babbling, but no valid answer.
Everyone'll have to do the living-job himself, and no mistake.
But a child still needs guidelines!
(Please, don't despair... let Life teach you.)

"You want me to change the way I make love / I want to leave it alone":
Sex within the framework given by the necessities of the little one:
— That's a botheration!
— Possibly, agreed. But that's the way the cookie crumbles.

It's all new.
It's all for the first time.
It's all this one, and only one, time.
Let no-one persuade you that it's been round and round thousands of millions of times already.

Rather listen to Shunryu Suzuki: "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind".

● — ● — ●

For those who Believe: May Her, or His, or Their, blessing be with you.
And for the rest of us: May our womanly, or manly, or childly, courage help us see through it all, and possibly see it through.

May your joy be joy, and may your pain be pain — simple pain, without suffering added on top of it (and even that only on occasion).

So I wish you all a peaceful ending of 2013, and a good start on the other side of an arbitrary line, in 2014.
___________________________________________________
Therefore know that you must become one with the bow, and with the arrow, and with the target
to say nothing of the horse.

... for a while
... for a little while...

(Just a filthy beggar blessing / What happens to the heart)
AlexandraLaughing
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Re: Symbolism of 'Different Sides'

Postby AlexandraLaughing » Mon Jan 12, 2015 10:03 pm

Here's a completely different suggestion for the meaning of the song.

It's based on a guess that LC went to a Christian baptism at some point, where the priest went on annoyingly about Christianity demanding that you behave yourself sexually. Here's the commentary on that basis (ie on the basis of sheer speculation):

We find ourselves on different sides
Of a line nobody drew
Though it all may be one in the higher eye
Down here where we live it is two

You would normally have the two sides of the family on either side of the font, and if one side is Jewish and one Christian, these might be considered one up in Heaven, but two in the contemporary world.

I to my side call the meek and the mild
You to your side call the Word
By virtue of suffering I claim to have won
You claim to have never been heard

The meek and the mild are the Jews, the Christians the ones who have claimed to have the word and the Word. Jews have suffered more, but Christians (well, according to GK Chesterton, anyway, anyway) claim that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, but has never been tried.

Both of us say there are laws to obey
But frankly I don’t like your tone
You want to change the way I make love
I want to leave it alone

This would assume some kind of lecture on sexual morality.

The pull of the moon, the thrust of the sun
And thus the ocean is crossed
The waters are blessed while a shadowy guest
Kindles a light for the lost

At a baptism, the water is blessed by dipping the candle in the baptismal water. The child is given a candle, but it's often given to someone you are trying to include to hold, who can't be included any other way- e.g. a Jewish honorary godparent (a shadowy guest- because it's someone else's party).

Down in the valley the famine goes on
The famine up on the hill
I say that you shouldn’t, you couldn’t, you can’t
You say that you must and you will

I assume this is two different ways of doing morality. But I imagine we are moving away from religion and towards sex at this point.

You want to live where the suffering is
I want to get out of town
C’mon baby give me a kiss
Stop writing everything down

Living where the suffering is could be making the sign of the cross on the baby- maybe the 'baby' is a real baby (or maybe we have just moved on to a new world at this point), and the writing down is entering the baptism in the baptismal register.

I could be totally wrong, but that's what the song made me think of when I first read/heard it.
Grateful_Heart
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Re: Symbolism of 'Different Sides'

Postby Grateful_Heart » Fri Dec 02, 2016 7:52 pm

I hear the song as describing the struggle between the Talmudic and Qabalistic traditions of Judaism, the Law versus the Mystery. This struggle was the setting for Chaim Potok's novel "The Book of Lights," which I had been reading in 2012 right around the time "Old Ideas" came out. I don't know if LC was thinking specifically about those two traditions, but as a general concept I am pretty sure Law vs. Mystery within Judasim is the basis for the song. The theme is fairly common with Cohen.

Sincerely,
Grateful Transformation of the Heart

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