Realizations

Philosophy in the Middle of the Desert

“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen: Following The Life of David December 9, 2019

If all the known verses of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” were to continue the story of King David as overtly as the first verse, the song could be interpreted as something like the following verses. Compare them with the original lyrics I put at the bottom of this post. Each verse gets closer inside the life of David as it goes from third person to second person to first person narrative.

VERSE 1: King David played his lyre and composed music for the LORD in a way that pleased Him so greatly that, in a mysterious way, his angelic-sounding music moved the supernatural realm and moved God to suppress demons. David tapped into the beautiful, angelic patterns God created within music theory of the fourth, the fifth, and the beauties of major and minor, dark and light, reminiscent of the joyous and sad seasons in life, but God is glorified and can be worshiped in it all (which foreshadows the ups and downs of his life explained in the coming verses). This mysterious, worshipful experience of music transcends David into the spirit realm to connect with God, leaving him in a state of baffled euphoria in His presence.

VERSE 2: But when God gave him rest on all sides, he started to become complacent and the impenetrable faith of his youth developed holes and he became more casual about his relationship with God and keeping His Law and became prideful, which always comes before a fall. In this state of disconnect from God he wasn’t strong enough to withstand the temptation of moonlight lust on his rooftop which resulted in adultery with Bathsheba,  David’s “great sin.” Because of this great evil, God cursed David so that his royal throne was broken, he lost his power and had to flee for his life from his son Absalom, all for a lustful night of euphoric indulgence. He traded the euphoric “Hallelujah” of worshiping God for a euphoric “Hallelujah” of selfish, carnal indulgence.

VERSE 3: When confronted about it by his first wife Michal, David recounts how their childless marriage had been threatened from the beginning and their love quickly turned cold and distant, and certainly wasn’t any warmer now that they were finally back together in safety, albeit through David’s force. This coldness and lack of love incited David’s lustful eyes to look for something more. And whether leading the triumphant troops home in a victory march under the royal banner of Saul’s house on the marble arch or leading the ark of the covenant triumphantly back home under the scathing eyes of Michal, Saul’s daughter, the joy of those victories was always tainted by the lingering curse of the royal family of Saul overlooking and antagonizing all that David did. Instead of David’s home life being as joyous as his victories, it was cold and broken and marked by the pain of obedience to God to do the right thing toward Saul’s family.

VERSE 4: David is broken in repentance and sings to God in Psalm 51 begging Him to not take away His holy spirit from him and restore their relationship to the way it used to be when God’s spirit was moving in him, showing him what to do, and God was with him in everything he did, glorifying Himself through David.

VERSE 5: It’s ironic that the third of the Ten Commandments is to not take the name of the Lord in vain, but it’s a name that isn’t even spoken and modern Jews don’t even know how to pronounce it; perhaps it was so even in David’s time, and they didn’t know exactly what God’s name was that was revealed to Moses.  With David’s pride resulting in his backsliding, he became lax concerning the Law of God (as evidenced in the mishandling of the ark) and perhaps this included the third of the Ten Commandments, to the point that the holiness of God’s name was forgotten, maybe even influenced by the rough-around-the-edges military companions he surrounded himself with (Joab seems to loosely use the LORD’s name in vain in 2 Sam. 19:7), which certainly wasn’t helped by the doubts and disconnect he felt from God in fleeing for his life — unlike his previous fleeing from Saul, this time fleeing because of his great sins. But even in David’s sins, he still had a core, loving relationship and understanding of God’s grace and heart that overshadowed the Law and his sins (as mentioned in Psalm 51). Saul was instantly removed from being king for not following a specific military command of God, while David did far graver sins and God instantly forgave him (notwithstanding consequences) and He continued orchestrating things to establish David’s legacy for centuries, because David was after God’s heart. It’s this understanding of the heart of God and the Law that allowed David to see the bigger picture and get away with breaking other holy laws like lying to eat the holy, consecrated bread. He understood that God wanted more than just specific rules followed, God wants to be in everything we do and are. More than revering specific laws or a specific name for God as holy, God’s blazing light is in every single word, the holy and the broken words, indeed He is not just in the holy sacrifices and rituals, but in everything in life, the happy and sad things. (“For you do not desire sacrifice or I would give it… My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit,” Ps. 51) “I broke a rule, so what? God is bigger than the rules, he wants our hearts.”

VERSE 6: Even after David’s repentance, God fulfills His prophecy by Nathan the prophet of “the sword never departing from David’s house” when Absalom rises against him. David doubts God’s promises to him and even if God is with him or there at all. He laments that all he’s known from his loved ones (family, friends, in-laws, children) is strife and having to watch his back and literally be prepared to defend his life from someone who suddenly rises up against him. But even in the midst of his life’s tragedies, he was still singing his psalms to the Lord, finding a way to praise Him for His providence and trusting Him to fulfill His promises. Albeit, his Hallelujahs are sung from a sorrowful state of humble, faithful obedience, rather than from joyful exultation, in the midst of external pain and somber repentance.

VERSE 7: Yet at the end of his life, a life of unimaginable conflict, he’s able to say, “As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my life from all distress (1 Kings 1:29)” and in his final words he recounts, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; His word was on my tongue (2 Samuel 23:2).” He dies without feeling regrets, thankful to God for forgiving him of his sins in His grace and for the promise He upheld to establish his throne forever. “Is not my house firm before God? He has made an eternal covenant with me, set forth in detail and secured. Will he not bring to fruition all my salvation and my every desire? (2 Sam. 23:5)”  Again, David is seeing the bigger picture: God is the Lord of Song, creator and sustainer of all music, and so David finally finds himself back in the spiritual state of Verse 1 and uses God’s creation to connect with Him, moving in Him, and once again “Hallelujah” being in every breath he draws. 



 

ORIGINAL LYRICS OF “HALLELUJAH” BY LEONARD COHEN:

[Verse 1]
Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing “Hallelujah”
[Chorus]
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Verse 2]
Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
[Chorus] Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Verse 3]
Baby I’ve been here beforeI know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you
And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah
[Chorus] Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Verse 4]
There was a time you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah
[Chorus] Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Verse 5]
You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah
[Chorus] Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Verse 6]
Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
And it’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah
[Chorus] Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Verse 7]
I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
[Chorus] Hallelujah, Hallelujah

 

**Author’s note: I don’t actually think this song is intended to be interpreted as one continuous story about the David narrative (or any other continuous story for that matter), as Leonard Cohen wrote 80 verses for it and whittled it down to the above verses. It’s abstract and he probably just picked the most interesting verses, although I do think that observing the song exclusively from the David context is a very moving perspective and more captivating than the more likely interpretation of a modern relationship struggle that just invokes Biblical metaphors. Regardless of the different interpretations, I’d say this is easily among the top ten most intriguing songs ever written by human beings.

 

Crisis Philosophy October 28, 2014

[as originally typed up on my iphone from 4:30-6am, 101714, after waking from a nightmare, terrified by the disgusting abominations I saw and felt, as if they were really happening]

 

The disgusting, demonic nightmare:
The old, placid doctor talked to his assistant (a pretty, young blonde in a labcoat), as if another routine day on the job:
“Yes, my dear. We’re going to rape you and burn you and chop you up and freeze you.”
The young lady was standing very routinely, but with a sudden look of surprise and confusion. Then two men came up from behind and grabbed her, put her down on the ground, and put a large ice bag on her neck.  She screamed as they started chopping her ankles with a butcher’s knife. But the scene cut right before the blade touched her flesh. And I thought, well that’s a relief the scene was cut, otherwise it would have been inappropriate.
Then I was on a bus and this same scene was playing as a movie on a screen. I was watching it again with the other people on the bus and when it got to the point of chopping her ankles I knew the camera would stop again just in time before the blade cut, otherwise it would have been inappropriate for a public place like that. But there was sitting in front of me a pretty young blonde, similar to the young nurse in the movie, and she turned her head away right before the chop, in horror, unable to watch anymore. Then the movie showed the nurse’s head on the ground next to the opaque freezer box which contained her chopped up body. And that’s when I woke up, full of terror and overcome with disgust at the darkness of that movie. And yet I already said in the dream that “at least it wasn’t inappropriate”, though that same “appropriate” movie caused the girl in front of me to turn in disgust, and was enough for me to wake me up in a terrified panic. What symbolism there is all throughout this dream!

And, as only a dream can do, my mind and heart were suddenly opened, and I could feel the fear and pain that blonde nurse experienced, and all my first world problems vanished. I realized that intense human suffering like that was going on right now in the world; it didn’t end with the Holocaust. And being in that fatal doctor’s office with that nurse, I felt her panicked desperation as she thought “Surely there is someone who can save me! Surely there is someone coming for me, or at least working or fighting to get here and rescue me!”

 

Then this dialog played in my mind while I was recovering from the dream.
Old European gentleman: “Oh come now. Eat. Drink!  Be merry. There is much to do, but there is also a time to enjoy life!”
Neo: “No. You don’t get it. You don’t realize how evil evil is. If you did you wouldn’t be able to put that food down. You would be staying up all night thinking and working to save these innocent people right now. The hand is cancerous and its spreading faster than a venom, but because of the remaining good in it we ignore the bad for a little bit longer, hoping it will get better… Hoping until it’s too late.”
Gentleman: “You can’t just throw away the good with the bad, the baby with the bath water!”
Neo: “But I say, yes!  Throw it out!  Better to enter life with one hand than to burn in hell with both.  The thing that’s keeping this kind of evil active is humanity’s existence. As long as we’re still around there will be immense suffering, because there will always be demons to put evil emotions and ideas in our hearts, and just enough lazy, complacent good people to keep the world good enough, and not altogether bad enough to cut off. Good enough people are the problem. It’s the hardworking man in Iowa who works an honest job and comes back to a wholesome meal with his family and settles in for a night in front of the tv. This is the problem. This is what’s allowing more time for the evil in the world to go on betraying and cheating and lying and piercing and burning. This is what’s keeping the stew just lukewarm enough to not be thrown out.  Oh, you don’t understand the evil that exists!”

God, destroy this Sodom even though there be 10 righteous in it!

 

I think about the horrible, utterly disgusting depravity of this world with its inhuman media, making movies like Human Centipede. Not only are people given opportunities and incentives to let their minds wander to such dark corners, inspired by the dark boundaries surpassed by those before them, but then they invest time and money to not only make their evil imaginations visible, but to put them in other people’s heads, into the minds of people that might not ever think of these evil things otherwise. Such is the cancer of pornography and MTV and Hollywood, who makes inescapable commercials that are literally filled with the same scenes that made movies in the 60’s rates R, and in the 50’s rated X.  And yet most Americans think this is … Wait for it… GOOD!!!  We have been so numbed to the evils of pornography that we have also been numbed to the good of innocence and virginity. Numbed to how good it is seeing a young woman as a soul, created in the image of God, and the beautiful work of art she is within, and thus is our desire to protect her from pain and devaluing numbed. The hardworking family man in Iowa is doing nothing to stop this genocide, but instead embraces it, even if only subtly, and subjects his family to it as acceptable prime time tv!  He is the problem. He is in the way of justice and mercy. He is no better than the passive Germans who kept living everyday life when there was a concentration camp in their backyard. Oh that you were hot or cold, holy or evil, but you are lukewarm, and even though you are not altogether bad you will be thrown out, and cause the rest of us to be thrown out with you.

 

When we were children our eyes were still open to see the gravity of evil and it could make us vomit, but today we have been so numbed to how great this evil is, that instead of vomiting out the poison we laugh at it, ingest it, spread it, and it kills us all. America could very well be the most wicked nation on Earth, for we are a Great Whore seeking out nations to invite to drink our cup of adultery, and so make them guilty also. And as if our rated R movies and pornography and sex slavery wasn’t bad enough, what’s even worse than all of that is that we stamp “In God We Trust” on it. I assure you God doesn’t take that blasphemy lightly.

 

Right now, somewhere in the world, someone is being tortured just as bad as the horrors of the Nazis and their Holocaust.  Like what’s going on in Iraq at the hands of ISIS right now.
If I live a good, comfortable life but someone else is living in Hell as we speak, then may both our lives be snuffed if it stops their suffering; for pain is more tangible than joy. Until then let us fight this horror with whatever time and energy we have left.
I pray God would have mercy on us, as in the days of Noah, and wipe us all out for the sake of the suffering that we have allowed to become this unimaginably horrible. I don’t care about justice, all I care about is ending the pain. With people going through this kind of intense pain right now, how can we do anything but be constantly working to rescue them? I mean, we’re in a state of emergency crisis! Put on hold your job, your marriage, your parenthood! Don’t you dare waste any more time on entertainment and recreation when you could always be doing something to help in the fight against the suffering of the innocent. I know you’d wish people would give up entertainment to fight for you if you were in that kind of pain. If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.
Better to err on the side of righteousness and holiness than on the side of blasphemy, apathy, laziness, lust, and violence.

 

———————–

The next morning I knew I had to do something. And while I’m limited at helping to fight the genocide of ISIS (you can support Voice of the Martyrs as they are actively helping those victims), I knew that there were plenty of horrors happening in my own backyard, and so I signed up to volunteer myself (not just my money) with End Slavery TN. Even if all I can help with right now is sorting papers or doing data entry or writing essays, I’m at least part of the solution to bring relief to the suffering. Even if I can do nothing more than menial tasks right now, so that more active people in the organization aren’t tied down doing them, then I will allow more time/energy/attention to be directed to help the suffering.  In whatever we do, we need to live like we’re really in a state of emergency crisis, because we are.

 

The god of Embarrassment October 22, 2014

Filed under: Christianity/Theology/Spirituality — milesprowers @ 1:48 pm
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I worship the god of Embarrassment.  Not in the same way I worship Jehovah.  For I worship Jehovah in praise and great joy and love and gratitude and rest.  But I burn incense on the altar of Embarrassment in great fear, so as to appease his spirits, to pacify him a little longer that I might have partial relief.  And yet Jesus said, you cannot serve two masters.  For you HAVE TO love one and hate the other.  You cannot serve both God and Mammon.  But I don’t serve Mammon; I serve Embarrassment.  And that HAS to change!  For right now I’m not open to doing ANYTHING God tells me to do, only those things which don’t conflict with my previous commitments to Embarrassment.  And so I bind the hand of God from healing this suffering world.  Just so I can live in an illusory comfort zone, hiding behind my rituals and tradition, trying to worship a man-made idol.

 

On the Tips of our Tongues April 24, 2014

Father, order my thoughts and make them words.

There is something on the tips of all our tongues.  It’s the look on the face of a dying man, just released from the hospital, sitting with his eyes closed listening to his friends read a book with him, resting in the gift of that moment.  There’s something there. Something so powerful that I’m speechless, and I don’t dare to interrupt the embrace of that bliss. We all felt it but we couldn’t grasp it; we didn’t know what to do except savor it before it was gone. There are no words for that feeling. We just don’t get it. It’s on the tip of our tongues but we can’t say it.   On the tip of our hearts and souls but we cannot comprehend it.

It’s when a random song starts playing and it unexpectedly brings you to your knees, brings tears to your eyes, and all you can think to do is stretch out your hands to praise God, the only one you can think to attribute such euphoria to.  We don’t understand why or how, but it’s there. There’s something there which we just can’t get at.

But very soon all will be complete and we will see it as it truly is. We will become real and experience reality. We will sense with maximum perception.  For we will no longer glimpse the divine with fleeting experiences, but we will live the divine.

When you smell a fragrance you haven’t smelled since childhood and the nostalgia overwhelms all your senses and melts you inside, bringing you close to unconsciousness, it is a taste of what is to come.  Though right now we can only taste it on the tips of our tongues.  There’s something happening in our midst that is deeper than anything we can ever know right now.  Something is about to burst at the seams.  And when it does we will look back and laugh at our finitude.  But until then all we have are snapshots into the Director’s commentary, glimpses of the divine.

photo (2)

 

A Man After God’s Own Heart March 6, 2014

I think of a child running through the meadows, wide-eyed with wonder, a radiant smile, hands outstretched to Heaven, spinning around, throwing up flowers to the sky, to God.  Taking in the mountains and fields, loving life, rejoicing in it.  Loving God who he can feel there with him, who he knows intimately, talks to and praises openly, with all his heart, thanks God for the beauty of nature, which he knows are God’s gifts to His children, fruit of His love.

And God responds to this innocent boy, perfect in heart, by coming alive around him.  As the boy runs, the flowers around him open up, the clouds part to reveal a beautiful sunset, a breeze blows his hair, light shines down on him, birds fly by, deer appear.  It’s the manifestation of God smiling and hugging the boy, telling him how much He loves him.  And likewise, as if trying to hug back just as hard, the boy shouts at the top of his lungs, “LORD!  I love you with all my heart!!!”

And being overwhelmed with this euphoric experience he falls backward into a soft bed of flowers, eyes closed, no longer focusing on the manifestation of God, but rather God Himself, there beyond the senses. He doesn’t know what else to do except whisper over and over, “I love You.  Thank You.  I praise You.”  Then his joy reaches the next level where his smile turns into a frown and tears of supernatural joy freely flow from his face.  The boy doesn’t care who sees or about anything else going on, because all he cares about is loving and worshiping God as much as he can.

[written with my left hand, while my right was sprained, on 1/16/14]

 

My Valentine February 15, 2014

[written on 1/25/14 with my left hand, during 24 hours of silence; posted in honor of Valentine’s Day!]

If you’ve gone through a whole day without loving God, trusting God, or truly focusing in on Him/tuning into His voice… then you failed your top priority of the day.  The day was a failure.  You got an F.  You didn’t pass the test of loyalty.  After all, isn’t this the greatest commandment in the Old and New Testament, and indeed the meaning of life?  “Love the LORD your God with all your heart…”

If you don’t feel love for God in your heart something is wrong.  Stop everything you’re doing; take off from work if you have to.  Until you’re right with God, until you get to the place where you can honestly ask God to give you opportunities to proclaim His name today, to proclaim your Love.  And then go out actually looking for those opportunities.

God wants us to love Him like a lover — like in Song of Songs — consumed with Him as if we have a crush.  God wants me to run out through the fields to find a tree that I can carve a heart with both our initials in it.

We always put God on the shelf, getting Him out when it doesn’t conflict with anything else.  But why not put everything else on the shelf until it doesn’t conflict with God?  Why not love God and trust Him even if it means we die?  [21514- As my friend, Spencer Argow, pointed out to me last week, the last time I saw him before he died:  “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” ~Job 13:15]

[I should note that writing this article is my very act of living out my advice, as this came to me during a time when I have so much stuff people want me to do, and I chose to put it on the shelf until I’m right with God again.  It’s kind of corny, I know, but that’s the point!]

 

Lonely God February 8, 2014

Filed under: Christianity/Theology/Spirituality — milesprowers @ 6:25 pm
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[1/27/14-  while listening to John Reuben’s I Pictured It]

Lonely god. A phrase I thought of a week ago. How truly sad it is, this creator god who creates children to love him, but instead even the best of us confine him to increments of our time disproportionate to our other affections. What a shame that I truly care more for his children than I do him, the very one by whom I exist. I’m scared to lift my hands in praise to him because I care more about what my brothers and sisters think, than what my father thinks.  He gets excited when an opportunity arises for us to talk about him, to mention him like we would a lover. But when we think he’s not looking we change subjects or imply that we don’t even know him. And his smile becomes a frown as he turns his head and leaves before we see him and realize he overheard us. And I feel this god crying out in the wilderness, saying, Why won’t anyone come live with me?  Why only brief visits?  Is it the way I look?  Or is it because we don’t have anything in common?  Nothing to talk about?  But oh, my child!  Don’t you have more in common with me than anyone else?  Shouldn’t you have more to talk about with me than anyone else?  You are made from my own genes.

What would happen if we went to live with this god?  And got his advice and encouragement all day?  Ran to him when we were injured or rejected, knowing he would only run to us, embrace us in love and cry with us. And there, resting in between his shoulders, we could feel his heartbeat.   [Deuteronomy 33:12]

People are actually dying around us and yet we are still too afraid to just trust God, to just praise Him as much as we know how, and let him come to us and supernaturally change things, for the best of our own lives and ultimately everyone we are connected to.   People are on the verge of dying and will one day not be able anymore to feel the effects of the reckless faith we could have had. And God cries out to us:  Why won’t you just trust me?!  What have I ever done to you that you would doubt me like this?

O Moses!  What did you find out there in the wilderness?
O David!  What did you find out there in the wilderness?
O Jesus!  What did you find out there in the wilderness?