Happy the man who knows when to leave

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A Jewish brother of mine


Oh! Yes, I want it darker because that’s all life is about, the darkness of our minds, our skins or our nights without any discontinuity or end. And there is no salvation from that:

If you are the dealer

I’m out of the game

If you are the healer

I’m broken and lame

I’m ready, my Lord

And listen to the voice from beyond the dark age, beyond the Tower of Babel, beyond Babylon, from black Africa we all come from.

I discovered Leonard Cohen in Edinburgh in a summer when I was on the move between East Germany and Scotland and Bristol and London without any end to that peregrination. I found then the Beatles “Help” slightly too optimistic for my taste. Leonard Cohen found some ways into me I could not imagine existed.

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Testament and heritage

We did not know the euro, nor Brexit, but we were up to the empathetic empathy of that Jewish boy who spoke with the voice of God himself in the shape of David, in the starlight of all these stars that were burnt in Auschwitz and many other places. I was just back from Buchenwald and his voice was so strong I nearly fainted and I suddenly remembered my Jewish grandmother who died of cancer in 1938 and saved her whole family from deportation since she was the only Jew in that family.

And that Leonard, in his treaty with us, his congregation of faithful, sings the blood of suffering, torture, death and Jesus, that man who brought permanent jubilee. And we will still dance in the street with this man the way I danced in Dunn, North Carolina, in 1969 to a R’nB bluesy black band on my High School Homecoming Night, all the students and staff standing around me, clapping their hands, and the band making that music last forever, me unable to stop, unable to break the enchantment, the somber attraction to that dark music that was resounding in my heart and brain. Oh yes I felt like Jesus that night reaching out to the absent father I never had. Leonard was there in my heart, warm, strong and he did not pass me by because he could not since he was in my heart burning hot like a sin of salvation because salvation is sin. Oh yes, it takes your breath away.

Oh yes, he has always been on the level with me who was roaming the world for truth and only found mystery and sadness in Africa or in Europe, in America or in Asia. He transformed my life into a temple for Asperger individuals who cannot be up to meeting the others and yet only want it. To be on the level is not enough. To turn one’s back on the devil is just half what we need. You know it Leonard, we need to embrace the angel but we can’t because we are Asperger boys. We can embrace the whole world, the whole universe but as soon as it is an individual devil or angel we freeze, at times as hard on it as bone but rejecting that bone as some kind of guilty reaction that makes us ashamed. Hate and love are always merged into an unpalatable mixture that tastes like some highly addictive drug, some highly enslaving and exquisite pain of horror.

Don’t pass me by, Berlin

This life is a big oaken t able surrounded by people we do not know, we do not want to know and we become ashamed by the love we may have for anyone, provided they do not become any particular person of blood and flesh. We want to hide — under the table if necessary — and we deny that love and the lover and the flame in our eyes like any unfaithful Peter. Then we do not feel the emptiness of our brain and mind, the desolation of our soul like Joan of Arc at some burning stake in Rouen or anywhere else where they burn women they cannot equal. We have lost the sweetness of love confronted that we are constantly with the jungle of all those others we can’t connect with. And that blocks us on the way to becoming. And yet we become and we end up leaving the table of life and we move out of the game because we are the game of all these hunters.

It was in California that I met the love that made me become real. It was a long time ago. I was experimenting the bi-genderism of Leonard Cohen, feeling more Jewish then than anyone else Shakespeare might have called a Moor. Oh yes, my skin was burning for contact, for touch, for embrace, for the power of beating blood and goose pimples in August. Remember the lack of romanticism, of romance even and yet I was chained down, shackled to that love that made life so real.

And I traveled with you Leonard Cohen from vinyl LP to vinyl LP, with some old Jewish Bohemian music or just the light of a star in the dark sky, a falling star, a burning star, a star of guilt, a star of segregation, ordeal, passion. “And there are no letters in the mailbox, . . . that’s all I have to say.” Goodnight, goodnight my unescapable star, my mirage in the night, my illusion and hallucination. And the day I decided it was enough or too much, there and then, the star was there and she fell at my feet and picked me up from the abyss and put me in the hands of the proper people, the proper help, a priest, a magazine publisher, a son and a few doctors. Since then I have been traveling light: I dropped the chains, and yet I am still tied up to Asperger and Leonard.

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God loves you to death

That probably was the better way and like the violin of Ivry Gitlis I took off on the music and flew to the organ loft and perched myself on the keyboard in the Abbey Church of La Chaise Dieu listening to the truth of all requiems, of all Te Deums, of all the Passions of Matthew, John, Mark or Luke. The truth then was in this dark door of light in Babylon the Bright that casts no shadow, that door to be crossed alone on a small bark on the rowdy and agitated River Styx. So I could not turn the other cheek because I was already gone, the Curlew River was the pilgrimage to some distant Promised Land at the foot of the yew growing in my backyard since 1996.

And it is in the middle of the ruins of a world that cannot find its way to any future that I steered away to Asia, to the Indian Ocean, to elephant country, the universe of meditation and the absence of fear, pain, longing, just the world of nibbana — that some westerners call nirvana –; the world of tanha we call on this side of our moon desire, lust, lascivious addiction; the world of dukkha, a routine like every starting and re-starting, dying and re-dying, day by day, month by month, year by year. I dreamed then of maybe the possibility to reach some haven, some harbor, some safety in that culture of the mind. That took me back to my lifelong desire to know the name of all my ancestors, the DNA of all the millennia of human migrations from here to there, from then to now, from one bank to the next across the Curlew River. And I imagine myself as the gangster who could hold up and rob all these banks and reach out to God, to Him who is so much bigger that I feel so small I would like to just plain disappear, lose all materiality. I long to die to make life holy, life with humans in it, but remember an Asperger boy cannot establish contact with these. But life, God I want it in my eyes and ears.

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Love and Hate

So it all ends up in the strings of some cellos, violins or whatever since we are the puppets of this almighty life and some Apollo is pulling the strings to make us cry to death. Oh! How sweet life is when these death tears run up and down your cheeks and drowns your eyes.

Goodbye Leonard. You were my guide and my life. Let me wish I will follow that road soon enough, but that’s a promise between your love and mine.


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Written by

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, PhD in Germanic Linguistics (University Lille III) and ESP Teaching (University Bordeaux II) has been teaching all types of ESP

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