According to his official Facebook page, Leonard Cohen died today at the age of 82. Baruch Dayan Emet.
There’s fight in every one of Cohen’s new songs, illuminated by the wisdom of his years but powered by a lust for life that is rare even in artists who are decades younger. “I was fighting with temptation / But I didn’t want to win,” he sings with an almost audible wink, “A man like me don’t like to see / Temptation caving in.” It’s an invigorating sentiment, reminding us that even our most glaring flaws are not without their secret joys, and that our missteps, too, eventually take us to where we need to be. We may love and lose, we may try and we may stumble, but we feel, and the more we do the more alive we are even as we slouch toward the great eternal rest. “I heard the snake was baffled by his sin,” he muses in one of the album’s finest expressions of this profound idea, “He shed his scales to find the snake within / but born again is born without a skin / The poison enters into everything.” Teshuvah, or return—to righteousness, to our true selves, to those we love—is often difficult, sometimes deadly, always essential. There’s simply no other way.
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.