Leonard Cohen has died at 82. Cohen's cryptic, longing musings on love and loss elide, as does the best such music, the human and the transcendent and spiritual. You may have met him indirectly; more than 2000 recordings of his songs have been made by artists ranging from folkies like Joan Baez to mainstream rockers like U2 and REM. His lyrics are abstruse and easily misconstrued: his "Hallelujah" seems sometimes to be understood as an uplifting spiritual anthem, while in fact "It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah." One my my favorites is this song about the seduction of Joan of Arc by Fire. It concludes with what might serve as an epigram for much of his work: "Myself I long for love and light, but must it come so cruel, and oh so bright?" May he rest in peace.
Lisa Fullam is professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).