13 Jun 2014

I have just finished reading a fairly recent biography of Leonard Cohen. It's by Sylvie Simmons. I couldn't put it down; it was so fascinating.

Leonard Cohen as many of you will know suffered from depression. This is examined, explained and well documented in the book.

However, despite severe depression throughout his life, Leonard Cohen managed to write the most beautiful poetry and songs. He will be 80 in September and is still writing.

He had many set backs like we all do but he kept on at what he loved doing. He was asked once in an interview if he thought that his depression formed the basis of his sometimes mournful lyrics but he categorically said no. What he did say has remained with me. He said that his writing was "a victory over depression" that despite it, he was able to write. Not all the time, not easily and not without tremendous effort and determination, but his poems represented for him a victory over and not a reflection of his depressed state of mind.

And now finally I come to the solitude bit.

Leonard Cohen is largely over his depression and has been for some years; it is not age that has relieved him of it but solitude.

After a long tour one year, he returned to Montreal and booked himself into a Buddhist monastery, which he had frequently done before when his schedule allowed. But this time, after over two years of touring with his band, he needed solitude and he stayed at the monastery longer then ever before. He still wrote in his room but was subjected voluntarily to a harsh regime, getting up at 3am some mornings. He emerged afterwards refreshed and energised. His years of depression had gone.

We all need solitude, time to think, write, just to be free of noise and demands. We may not have the luxury of a Buddhist retreat, we are not Leonard Cohen, but we can learn from his experience and try to take some time off for ourselves every now and again. A room of ones own will do.


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