Who By Fire?

One of the benefits of being Clueless is that since you don’t subscribe to any one orthodoxy, you can pick and choose from all of them.  Once you get away from the extreme notions of the Absolutely Convinced you can find great wisdom in all sorts of religious places. As an example, Friday night marks the start of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, or the day of atonement. Although most Jews probably don’t know the holiday probably predates the religion and used to involve throwing a goat down a hill they know its a solemn day of reflecting and asking for forgiveness for one’s sins. You don’t need to be Jewish or even traditionally religious to benefit from reflecting and atoning, and it might be a good idea to try doing it more than once a year, especially if you follow Tim’s advice (I kid, I kid).

Leonard Cohen is one of the greatest songwriters of the modern era, and the master of mixing the spiritual with the sensual. I consider him one of the spiritual fathers of the Church Of No Fucking Clue, as through many of his songs he conveyed that the greatest spirituality is a life lived in every direction. Over the years his music has come full circle, and so Hallelujah (a song so impactful people have written entire books about it) borrows from the stories of David and Sampson, includes the very provocative line “and remember when I moved in you,” and ends up being sung by choirs and cantors in Churches and Synagogues.

One of my favorite Cohen songs is Who By Fire, whose music and lyrics are both inspired by the Unetanneh Tokef, a melodic prayer recited on both Rosh Hashanha and Yom Kippur. It should be no surprise that Cohen started his career as a poet.

And who by fire, who by water, 
who in the sunshine, who in the night time, 
who by high ordeal, who by common trial, 
who in your merry merry month of may, 
who by very slow decay, 
and who shall I say is calling? 
And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate, 
who in these realms of love, who by something blunt, 
and who by avalanche, who by powder, 
who for his greed, who for his hunger, 
and who shall I say is calling? 

And who by brave assent, who by accident, 
who in solitude, who in this mirror, 
who by his lady’s command, who by his own hand, 
who in mortal chains, who in power, 
and who shall I say is calling?

 

 

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