Love trumps hate amidst many losses

2/19/2017

In too many ways 2016 was a year of loss. I was surprised but not shocked at losing David BowieGlenn Frey, and Alan Rickman, who were all in their late 60s. Years of substance abuse claimed Carrie Fisher at 60, Prince at 57, and George Michael at 53.

But what truly hurt me, to my surprise, was the loss of artists who were in their 80s. On the acting front, I mourned Gene Wilder, who was so wonderful in Mel Brooks’ The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Young FrankensteinWendy and I celebrated his legacy by attending a Labor Day weekend revival of Blazing Saddles on the big screen in Oklahoma City.

My favorite Gene Wilder role was his spot-on portrayal of Willy Wonka. Johnny Depp’s Wonka was sick and creepy in comparison. I love the office scene at the end of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory:

So shines a good deed in a weary world.

On the political front, the ascendance of Donald Trump was the product of the woes of a weary world, with his own victory sorely lacking in good deeds. I mourn the lack of civility, truth, and morality in presidential politics.

And then we come to poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen. A couple of years ago I read a great biography about him. In October 2016, at age 82, he released You Want It Darkerhis fourteenth studio album. He knew it would be his last.

Betty Henderson, my long-time friend and fellow science teacher, and I were introduced to the Canadian singer/songwriter’s works by Professor Bill Reynolds when we took a couple of graduate curriculum courses via compressed video from OSU in the 1990s. Prof. Reynolds had assigned us to watch the movie Pump Up the Volume, which featured Cohen’s hauntingly cynical Everybody Knows. We were both fascinated by the shattering bass voice linked to such powerful lyrics. That led us to the I’m Your Man album and beyond. I realize many folks might only know him as the guy who wrote Hallelujah.

Marianne Ihlen and Leonard Cohen

Marianne Ihlen and Leonard Cohen

I was grateful when the New Yorker offered a wonderful long last look at Leonard. But that article shook me to the core when I read in it the last note he wrote to his long lost muse, Marianne Ihlen, having learned she was dying of cancer:

Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.

When her family read that aloud to her, Marianne smiled. When she heard Leonard saying he was right behind, close enough to reach her, she lifted her hand. And two days later, Marianne slipped away. Leonard, true to his word, followed her four months later. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.

So 2016 was a year of love and loss. I will always delight in it as the year in which Wendy and I were married. But my emotions are quickly shredded if I listen to the reprises of Leonard Cohen’s Treaty or George Michael’s WaitingToo much loss. Too much pain.

Will 2017 be better? It hasn’t been much fun thus far. Our country is ripped apart by politics and partisanship. Anger, conflict, fear, and hatred pour out of Facebook every time I scan the newsfeed.

But love trumps hate. A few weeks ago I was tipped off by NPR Listeners’ Favorite 100 Albums of 2016 podcast to Sturgill Simpson’s album A Sailor’s Guide to EarthTaking his life as an object lesson, Simpson shares hard-won wisdom with his young son. I enjoy the boisterous Keep It Between The Lines, which has advice too many teenagers will ignore:

Keep your eyes on the prize
Everything will be fine
Long as you stay in school
Stay off the hard stuff
And keep between the lines

And I like how love “trumps” hate in his video for All Around You:

If you can’t make out the lyrics (Wendy says he sounds like a mush-mouthed Garth Brooks), here ya go:

There will be days
When the sun won’t shine
When it seems like the whole world is against you
Don’t be afraid
Life is unkind
You can let go of the pain if you choose to

‘Cause time slips away
Skies fall apart
It ain’t too hard
A universal heart
Glowing, flowing, all around you

There will be nights that go on forever
Like you’re long-lost at sea
Never to be found
Just know in your heart
That we’re always together
And long after I’m gone
I’ll still be around

‘Cause our bond is eternal
And so is love
God is inside you
All around you
And up above

Love me, show me you’re the way

‘Cause time slips away
Skies fall apart
It ain’t too hard
A universal heart
Glowing, flowing, all around you 

Now that’s more like it.

About Granger Meador

I enjoy day hikes, photography, podcasts, reading, web design, and technology. My wife, Wendy, and I work in the Bartlesville Public Schools in northeast Oklahoma, but this blog is outside the scope of our employment.
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