Leonard in st. james


Had an hour to kill in town and rather than continue the conspicuous consumption I’ve been indulging in recently, I thought I’d go sit in St. James Park.

The miraculous shuffle function on my iPod (am I the only one that’s notice that this seems to have weird psychic powers, pre-empting my desire to hear a song or making incredibly knowing conjucntions?) conjured up a Leonard Cohen song that I didn’t know I had and had never heard before.

I’ve like Leonard intermittently since I was 15, but always suspected that his excellent songs were recorded in a rough-cut waiting for someone who can really sing to cover them (pace Rufus Wainwright’s cover of “Hallelujah” which is quite breathtaking compared to the original.) Anyway this song, “Anthem”, seemed so perfectly perfect coming in to my ears in the damp, grey morning light.

Sitting on hard wooden bench with no particular state-of-mind in gear, watching the occasional mid-week walkers, the coots and moorhens, the dark grey water, the song was perfect in its espousal of non-perfection. Cohen is a profound Buddhist and sums it all up in the lyric. It made me cry.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There’s a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.


  1. coolbuddha

    October 27, 2005 at 10:44 pm

    Thank you for quoting the Cohen lyrics.
    I had not heard or read them before.
    As you say, the words do indeed sum it all up!

    best wishes,


  2. Wendy

    October 31, 2005 at 9:49 pm

    Hello from Toronto. Just wanted to say how much
    I enjoyed reading your blog. Thought provoking,
    entertaining and inspiring. Just love reading
    what’s on the mind of Alistair Appleton.
    If you also want to hear another beautiful rendition of
    Hallelujah check out Jeff Buckley’s version on his Grace

  3. James

    April 30, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Those lyrics made me pause not just physically but mentally and spiritually. I felt the meaning brought tears to my eyes. I have been touch by so many things you share from the world. The pieces that promote an acceptance of the brokenness of humanity always touch my heart.

    Thank you for sharing your loving spirit and reminding us of the goodness in the world.

    With great admiration,

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