7: Quotation by Leonard Cohen.
In this undated quotation, presented in a book devoted entirely to the history and impact of "Hallelujah," Cohen suggests that the song's refrain is about accepting and embracing contradictions. This explanation may reflect Cohen's Buddhist practice; he was ordained as a Zen monk in the 1990s. It may also be tied to his inherited Jewish understanding of the world, which, according to Psalms 24:1, "is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof," including, it might be supposed, the good and the bad together.
Suggested Activity: Read Cohen's quotation aloud with students and discuss: what "irreconcilable conflicts" might Cohen be referring to in this quotation? What might he mean by moments in which one can "reconcile and embrace the whole mess"? How is Cohen's use of the word "Hallelujah" different from the Biblical use of that word? What exactly is he praising, if anything at all?
Have students do some free-writing and reflecting about how these concepts of "conflicts" and "reconciliation" relate to their own lives. Then ask them to write a poem comprised of a series of statements followed by the word "Hallelujah." They can use the word traditionally, non-traditionally, religiously, secularly, straight-forwardly, ironically, or in any other way that they choose.
Source: Alan Light, The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah," (New York: Atria Books, 2012), 30-31.