I purchased Leonard Cohen’s new album You Want It Darker on Friday, and have listened to it a few times now. It is to be frank an astonishing record that slowly reveals itself. The language is restrained and precise, but still with a depth and gravity that isn’t easily comparable to other artists. What I enjoy so much is that his depth of imagery is more remarkably literary, in that it is lucid and enthralling – not wilfully obscure.
One song struck me as particularly interesting (they’re all interesting) and that is It Seemed the Better Way. I hope this song is not overlooked because there are some rather provocative clues hidden in this song. When Leonard talks in the past tense of “it seemed the better way” and then pivots to “its not the truth today” – regarding a religious sage – I tend to get the impression that we are moving into the realms of a post-religious world. Gradually, over the course of a civilisation’s marriage with secularism and liberal values, there is a slow disassociation from religious Truth – we become a post-Truth society in the sense of no longer having a grand metaphysical design.
Another point potentially raised is that this was a choice – perhaps a damnable choice. Maybe at one point in our history, whether you look at teleology or plain simply trajectory of behaviour, maybe there was a point when humanity could have aggregated its souls in the direction of a religious future, a teaching or a salvation. Or maybe just a better world. Now Leonard seems to be implying that we have gone beyond the last marker where we could have changed course. We are on a post-religious Truth trajectory now, and as he hauntingly and atmospherically sings, ‘its now too late to turn the other cheek.’