In Conversation with a Prophet: A Leonard Cohen Listening Party with Terry Patten

Terry Patten is a leading voice in the emerging fields of integral evolutionary leadership and spirituality. In his cutting-edge writings, talks, and teachings, he not only inspires transcendental awakening, love, and freedom, but also calls us to accept and incarnate our full humanity. Terry is the founder of Bay Area Integral, a member of Deepak Chopra’s Evolutionary Leaders group, a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, and serves on the board of the Wellsprings Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom. Terry is the co-author with Ken Wilber of Integral Life Practice: A 21st-Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening. He created the acclaimed online course, Integral Spiritual Practice, and  hosts the online teleseminar series Beyond Awakening: The Future of Spiritual Practice.



Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died…

He died the day before Donald Trump was elected president. And yet many lines of his remarkable poetry speak to the challenge of the Trump era like no other voice—in terms both hauntingly beautiful, and brutally penetrating.

So I invite you to gather with me and other members of our community to listen to a few of his beautiful songs and to respond, from the heart, in small groups. I’ll offer brief comments to introduce a series of songs and the conversations we’ll be having in the afterglow.

Leonard was for me, perhaps the poet of our times, a true poet, something rare and precious. As he so beautifully put it, “I wanted to stand with those who clearly see G-d’s holy broken world for what it is, and still find the courage or the heart to praise it.” And, my oh my, did he!

But he also made us face all the brokenness. “He was possessed by a lasting sensation of brokenness. He was broken, love was broken, the world was broken,” wrote his old friend Leon Wieseltier in a New York Times tribute upon his death. But he regarded it as “a gorgeous imperfection.” After all, he wrote the words: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” The teaching was plain: fix the crack, lose the light. And yet he worked feverishly to work a healing of the spirit.

Which means he was our elegant poet of revolution. Recall some additional words from that classic song, Anthem:

I can’t run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
A thundercloud.
They’re going to hear from me.

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

Or the haunting prophesy of The Future:

Get ready for the future.
It is murder.
Things are going to slide,
Slide in all directions.
Won’t be nothing,
Nothing you can measure anymore.
The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
Has crossed the threshold
And it has overturned
The order of the soul.

When they said (they said) repent (repent), repent (repent)
I wonder what they meant.
When they said (they said) repent (repent), repent (repent)
I wonder what they meant.

And yet in that same song went on to intone the basis for hope: “love’s the only engine of survival.”

It is luminous prophesy, so relevant in our moment, echoing in these lines from Democracy Is Coming to the USA:

It’s coming to America first
The cradle of the best and of the worst.
It’s here they got the range
And the machinery for change
And it’s here they got the spiritual thirst.
It’s here the family’s broken
And it’s here the lonely say
That the heart has got to open
In a fundamental way.
Democracy is coming to the USA.

But he was not primarily a “political” poet. He was a poet of love, and a poet of sadness. He waged a long and public war with despair. It was harrowing, but ultimately successful. As he put it in comments during a live performance, “I’ve studied deeply in the philosophies and major religions… but cheerfulness keeps breaking through.” Or in his song, Heart with No Companion, “I greet you from the other side of sorrow and despair/ With a love so vast and shattered it will reach you everywhere.” He found so much in the darkness; in his hands it was an occasion for uplift and praise. He made darkness and imperfection gorgeous.

And he still lives! We can hear his voice any time. In that voice, I hear a roadmap for the soul to navigate some of the impossible questions of our time.

So I invite you to gather for some rich soul food in the company of our greatest poet, and celebrate him. And let’s take in his guidance, and talk back to him, shining our light into the darkness he forces us to feel, and be joined at the heart.

It’s not easy to navigate the era that began the day after his death.  So let’s use his inspiration to find our next steps, the steps we can still take in this broken time, as we ring the bells that still can ring.

But to do that, we must be healed. He invoked that beautifully too, you know:

O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now,
The fragrance of those promises
You never dared to vow,
The splinters that you carry
The cross you left behind.
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind.
And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn,
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb.
Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace.
O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind.

In Conversation with a Prophet:
A Leonard Cohen Listening Party with Terry Patten

Wednesday, March 29, 7:00 to 9:30pm
Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA

Pre-Registration: $20 regular, $12 senior/student/hardship
(Pre-registration ends 11:30pm the day before the event)

Day of Event: $25 regular, $15 senior/student/hardship
No one turned away for lack of funds

Volunteer Comp: A few available for this event; see the Volunteer page for details