Instant Karma, Truth and Violence

satori and I. We’re still talkin’. Well, mostly me. But this is my bent, circa 2007.

“So as far as I am concerned the gal in Leonard Cohen’s poem… well, he wrote her down, exactly which I think is nervy. Think about it. They run into each other – these ex-lovers. And she tells him his eyes are dead. What happened to you, Lover?” I smirked. “Like he’s broken or something. What the hell kind of thing is that to say? Who would to say something like that? It’s awful. It’s awful and it’s arrogant. Isn’t that how it sounds to you? Doesn’t that sound arrogant? You know? Uppity? Pretentious? Oh, your eyes are dead.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I think so. So he goes home and writes a poem about her. He immortalized her in this poem and all it is the truth! It’s not hateful. It’s not vindictive. He says she lost her beauty and in fact she has. Because anyone who could and would say something like that, obviously has no beauty to them. How can make a comment like that and be beautiful, inside or out?”

She agreed.

“So I think he just wrote down reality. Apparently she was once beautiful. But not anymore if she is going to walk and make this kind of comment to people. And I don’t think he was mean. He just wrote the facts of this situation… in an elegant way I admire. And you did the same with that woman. Fact is, she slept with a cad. Your husband was a cad. He slept with her and then came home and talked nasty about her. What a jerk! So you wrote it down and in the process she took a fall.”

“Yep.”

“And he took the fall too. Because anyone reading what you wrote knows what he did. He slept with this woman like some kind of experiment and then critiqued her, for Godsakes. How repulsive is that?”

“It’s disgusting.”

“Agreed. I bet that woman Cohen wrote about wished she’s had kept her arrogant mouth shut. And your gal? Well if she could go back in time and keep her pants on, I’m sure she would. Or pick another target, right? One who won’t or can’t shoot back. Because she lost her life on that one. Her illusion of who she was and how people saw her.”

“I’ll say.”

And those robbers on the bus? And the rapist with the popped testicle? They’d make new decisions too. These people are out making life treacherous for others as if it can’t come back on them!”

“Well it can and sometimes it does. And fast.”

“Yep. But anyway, this stuff is fascinating to me. I have a lifelong interest in this for so many reasons I don’t think I can count that high. Violence and non-violence, I mean. I have had to think about this my whole life and non-violence is luxury as far as I’m a concerned. It’s fine until some guy is on top you and you’re being raped. Or someone grabs your kid and starts running out of the department store. You’re non-violent and you can preach it till you’re blue. But them something like this happens and all the sudden you find yourself hoping like hell for a violent intervention. These are hard questions. It’s hard to ask them and it’s hard to answer them. I’ve been trying to answer them all my life, actually. Can you believe that? You get this old and you find out what your life is about and for me, this is a very big deal. I wish I knew a lot less about it, actually. However I am having the life I am having.”

Do you have a stance or a position on violence?

pictured: Evening or Lost Illusions, Charles-Gabriel Gleyre, 1843, Oil on canvas, 39,5 x 67,5 cm, Kunstmuseum, Winterthur

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Instant Karma, Truth and Violence — 16 Comments

  1. I have a stance on Leonard Cohen. A Gemini I was in love with read me Cohen once. God, I loved that Gemini. I think he was feeding the Grand Fire Trine in my chart. We never consumated the relationship. Damn!

    As for violence, I don’t like it. Who does? Some people say it’s necessary. For what, I am not sure. Wars don’t seem to stop wars. They seem to tucker people out so they stay peaceful for a while, then they go back at it again. Or maybe not…

  2. Saying something like that is a violent act. It was unnerving reading that, since I remember once when I was hurt by a man cutting him with words. The thing is: my knife was too sharp, and I cut him to bits. And that was not my intention. OK, we are having a fight, but I don’t want him cut up in pieces ready to deep-freeze in the end! I would say it is my strongest weapon, but I have to control it. Because if not – there goes beauty. I think you’re right about that. It needs a perfect balance for it to be effective. Only cut that deep, if you’ve been cut that deep.

  3. I don’t know if I agree with you on the woman Cohen writes about. When I read that she saw her ex-lover and said that his eyes were dead to me it was a metaphor that she was finally “seeing” or admitting that their relationship had died.

    She could no longer bring fire, light, life to his eyes and she recognized that fact and blurted it out in a shocked surprised manner.

    I guess maybe in some strange way I relate to her, once, a long time ago. I remember his eyes being dead when he looked at me. I realized that he no longer loved me and yes, that very thought “your eyes are dead” did actually occur to me. I guess i didn’t think of it as HE was dead, just that it was a reflection of the pain that we were both in and the lack of love he had. I remember being surprised.

    There I go again, relating to the other side.

    😉

  4. C. – sounds like a completely valid interpretation to me! That’s art for you.

    It’s the “What happened to you, Lover?” that swayed me. As if it were he who had dropped… had something befall him, not her. She was judging him. Very cool,though. I wondered when I wrote that if others would parse his words differently than I did.

  5. I must confess that “What happened to you, Lover?” makes me think of failed expectations in general. More to do with me. As in, wow, you were the twinkle in my eye and now you’re not; is there something in me to have caused that?
    Then again I have a 1H Moon and I get caught up in seeing my relfection.

  6. I’ve seen a lot of violence in my life and it has affected me profoundly. Most of it was not the type that can be justified, mostly bullying. I’ve inherited some violence, from the ever loving family unit, but try to use it in the right situations. The whole subject just makes me so emotional! I was the big sister who threatened girls about 5 years younger than me to leave the younger ones alone. I was not tolerating any of that shit to anyone I cared about, not at all. But for myself, I would let it happen. I still tend to do that. It’s hard to figure out when it’s necessary and when it’s not. I have brothers that have committed violent acts on my behalf, some necessary, some not. All bothered me in the end, even if I were safer for it. Self defense violence is a violence I will commit, although I usually freeze in those situations. I too easily fall into a victim mentality and it’s an easy one for me, but leads me to even more anger and therefore violence. I make no sense!

  7. I think “your eyes are dead” is shorthand for “you look tired/stuck” and I don’t think it’s anymore of an inappropriate observation than “you’ve lost your beauty”.

  8. I grew up surrounded by violence. It was in the very air that we breathed. As a result, I think, I am highly allergic to any suggestion of it. However, fuck with me at your peril, because that stuff still lives in me.

  9. yeah, what opal said. I’m seen as a pacifist and for the most part I try to be, but that’s in spite of my upbringing, not because of it. I can get to an animalist level of violence shockingly fast.

    I’m trying to learn to harness that for myself, there are times I’ve let myself be hurt and I shouldn’t have. If I’m defending someone else I don’t have those restraints.

    I read the “your eyes are dead” statement as tender. Someone or something hurt a man she had once loved. She loved the essence of his vitality, and now she’s seeing a zombie. Maybe a little protective anger there too…

  10. Opal, ours was probably 10% physical violence; 90% emotional. My dad was the one who blew physically, in the end. My mother made provocation and anger an art form. I was the one who ended up with the physical damage, which I can easily quantify, and the emotional, well… let’s just say I’m still standing. I’m sorry, Opal. My experience with those kinds of feelings is not small, but yours sounds big. Maybe also a tremendous and important skill/ability, and hard-earned.

    As for Leonard, I think it’s people (often women) think they get to deal their pretty words like blades with no consequences. I don’t like the kind of literary interpretation where we get to soften the blow too much. People after all never know what was in the writer’s head unless they read the interview. And even then, time and Leonard himself might report the experience in a different way.

    If somebody told me my eyes looked dead, I would personally interpret that as “You’ve had it. You’re dead. You’re over.” That’s extremely harsh. Also, what kind of lover would say that, and not “Are you alright?”

    In the case of the poem, it seems an eye for an eye. Yeah. Lady. Time has taken its toll, and the truth hits everybody.

  11. Jesus preached love thy neighbor and things like ‘love your enemies’ and they crucified him. The best people ever made were assassinated though they were non violent: Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Benazir Bhutto, Jesus of course, and others. But I believe in self defense but not in violence over your anger at someone. We’re blessed to live in country that has law and order but you never know what the future will hold.

  12. Opal, that’s interesting. I (definitely) assumed family. Goes to show. Interesting, though. Belfast can be viewed as family violence in a larger way. In my history (not Irish), family overlaps with *family* and the violence is certainly deep, old, and runs in the blood.

    Speaking of family, instant karma, truth, and violence in general, last week the son of the Dallas police chief shot and killed a suburban Dallas cop, and the (Lancaster) cops shot him dead, too. Now there is controversy over the DPD/city assigning a motorcycle escort for his funeral:

  13. Re Cohen: ‘your eyes are dead” If someone who knew me well noticed something dead in my eyes…and it were true, then I would be challenged yes…probably a bit irritated, but also grateful for the noticing. I don’t think its arrogant. I think its honest. Maybe he needed the wake up call. Maybe she saved his life.

    I have not experienced much physical violence in my life though plenty of emotional and mental.

    Once I was in an outdoor market and a man looked right at me with so much malice/hatred…. then charged at me and swung to hit me..I didn’t have time to much more than duck. Turns out he was going for someone right behind me. I got tangled up in it for a few seconds then got the hell outta there.It took hours to calm down I was so scared.

    Its the closest to that kind of violence I have ever gotten and it was so scary and I thought wow…that’s what violence feels like. (and that was only a few seconds…)

    Mars in Pisces. Better to avoid it than to invite it. let there be peace on earth…please.

    p.s. I am also sure that if someone hurt me or one of mine I would need to do a lot of work to not want to retaliate.

  14. Opal, wow that’s a harsh scenario I can’t even imagine. In my worst nightmares. I believe that Elvis Costello referred to the situation in Ireland in “Oliver’s Army” ie the Murder mile?

    We in America have been so blessed to be isolated from such day to day tragedies in our own backyard for the most part at least…

    I don’t think anyone really knows what their reaction would be in any given situation when faced with sudden, unthinkable or unbearable circumstances? The dingo’s got my baby?

    I think the tipping point is so much closer than most would admit. As humans we have lived 99% of our existence in primal, survival modes, and so the reaction to “kill” is much closer to the surface than we think it is. Even Gandhi eventually espoused war.

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