I don’t have a lot for you this week.
It’s been an emotionally exhausting seven days for me, and for a lot of us. I’ve gone through a period of deep sadness followed by one of fiery anger, and while both are not now quite as overwhelming as they’ve been, I’m hoping to hang on to those emotions and channel them into something good. To me this has always been about more than politics, more than left and right. It’s been about who we want to be as a country, and what we will accept. The grief comes from realizing that we’re not who I thought we were.
But understanding that doesn’t mean accepting it. This may be who we are, but we can still stand against it, still decide for each one of us what we will accept, and what we won’t. For me, the deep divisions and racially motivated hatred that have been brought to the fore and legitimized by this election process are things I will not accept, and I know I need to work harder at fighting them. We are not who we thought we were, but I am who I decide to be. We all are.
The week began with the most horrific election result of my lifetime, and in the middle of all of that – as if it were not already emotionally wrenching – we lost Leonard Cohen. Others will eulogize Cohen better than I will, but I have unfailingly found him an incisive and powerful writer, one of the finest lyricists I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve always responded to his struggles with faith and mortality. His voice, even before the ravages of age turned it into a superhuman rumble, has always spoken with deep authority and power, and he has used that voice to expose the heart of what it means to be human, more times than I can count.
It strikes me that the bloody 2016 began with David Bowie delivering his final album, and as it lurched to a close, Leonard Cohen gave us his last record, the incredible You Want It Darker. Like Bowie’s Blackstar, it’s an album that takes on new and heartbreaking resonance in the wake of its author’s death. It’s a portrait of a man ready to see what lies beyond, and wrestling with the idea that it might be nothing. It’s a bleak and difficult and mesmerizing record, and I’m so grateful it exists, particularly now. I’m going to miss Leonard Cohen in ways I probably don’t even realize yet.
I know it’s been quoted too many times since his death, but the chorus of “Anthem” remains among my favorite Cohen lyrics, and it’s a sorely needed sentiment now:
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
As the long and exhausting week wore on, one of my good friends who has been dreading the exact result we got posted his own words about light. He’s fond of calling himself “the night” and affecting a dark and miserable persona online, although those who know him know that he is one of the most encouraging people alive. What could have been an excuse for him to grow even darker and lash out at the world turned into an opportunity to inspire, in the strangest way: he posted the Oath of the Green Lanterns. (Like me, he’s a huge comic book nerd.)
If you don’t know the oath, here it is: “In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight, let those who worship evil’s might beware my power, Green Lantern’s light.” It is, as he says, a cheesy saying from a lesser-known superhero. But somehow I found it impossibly moving that he posted this, and followed it up with his desire to seek hope. “I am the light,” he said. “The world has enough night.” I’m tearing up just thinking about it. The election may have shown us who we are, but this is who we can be, if we want to.
The world has enough night.
We’re the light.
See you in line Tuesday morning.