There is a blaze of light in every word It doesn’t matter which you heard The holy or the broken Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah Leonard Cohen
I woke up yesterday morning with a song in my head. It was there, clear and heartfelt, before I opened my eyes and rustled myself from sleep. And it didn’t go away. Though I don’t know most of the words, it was with me all morning as I puttered in the kitchen, as I payed the bills and folded the clothes. It drove with me into Marquette and walked beside me, inside me as I braced myself against the wind and the blowing snow, as I waved to the surfers riding the thrashing Lake Superior waves, as I smiled at the other windblown walkers on the lakeshore bike path. What is it about this particular song that gets under my skin and into my soul? And why did it decide to take up residence in my psyche for the whole of a day? Hallelujah Hallelujah. Leonard Cohen wrote his Hallelujah song in the early eighties and it has been recorded by countless others, sung at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Olympic Games, reinterpreted just last week on the television show, The Voice. But I wasn’t thinking about the Vancouver Olympics, and I’ve never watched The Voice, and yet there it was, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, tumbling through me, singing to me as I moved through my day.
I’m wondering whether it is always tumbling through me, always surrounding me, this chorus of Hallelujah. I’m wondering whether I just need to be an open enough vessel to hear it. Because that’s what the song does for me; it softens me; it releases resistance. If we’re in a state of resistance, how can we hear the hallelujah? It’s more than just the words, it’s a vibration beneath the words. “Love is not a victory march; it is a broken hallelujah.” This song has a way of breaking me wide open. The last time that I heard it — outside of my head, that is, piped in from the radio — was a few weeks ago in Moscow, Idaho. My daughter-in-law, my sixteen-month-old grandson and I were spending the morning at an indoor playground, a warehouse building set up like a town for toddlers. And Viren, immediately and for the duration, stationed himself in front of the train set, transfixed by the train’s tiny cars, the way they clung together with magnets, the way he could push them forward and down the track’s toy hill. It was hallelujah for him. And when the song came on — why this particular song at a town for tots found its way through the airwaves is beyond me — it was hallelujah for me too.
At the time, I was standing behind him, feeling a little fidgety, wanting to move, wanting to encourage my grandson buddy to do something else. Why not make your way to the toddler-sized house or the farmyard filled with wooden animals ready for you to ride?!? And then I heard it, the Hallelujah song, this time sung by a female artist, heard it filling the warehouse-toddler-town and I melted. My fidgety-ness disappeared and I knelt down behind Viren and I breathed in deeply and I soaked in the “whatever-it-is-beneath-the-words”, the vibration of this song, and I opened to the moment with a transfixed grandson, opened to the other people too, the four-year-old-boy who was flitting from station to station, the little girl tumbling down the slide, the mother of the girl grading college freshmen papers, my daughter-in-law. I relaxed into the moment, relaxed into my day. Hallelujah Hallelujah.
So hallelujah for a song that can soften my resistance and open my heart. Today I continue to listen to a version of it on You Tube and it continues to feel good to me. But do I need it? Do any of us need a song or a person or a certain kind of weather or a certain amount of money or a certain way for the world to be in order for us to feel good, in order for us to soften and to soar with the hallelujahs that are at hand? A week ago, in the early evening as the drizzly mist blew away and a streak of blue sky opened up over the western horizon, I jumped out of my car at Marquette’s food co-op and I went for it. I only had a twenty minute window of time before I needed to get to my errands and back to Joy Center for the the Thursday event, but I couldn’t help myself. Lake Superior was calling to me and my body wanted to move. So off I went, jaunting along at a rapid pace, breathing in the brisk air, smiling at my fellow walkers, smiling at the ripe full moon that was rising above the Lake, smiling into the pink mist as I turned myself around after ten minutes, smiling at the gulls who were flying above me, smiling at something else that also was flying above me. What was it? I stopped and squinted and looked for the tell-tale flashes of white. It was an eagle! Not one eagle, but five!!!!! Five eagles flying over the harbor and into the pink mist. It was a moment to behold — and I wonder whether I would have missed it if I wasn’t soaring already, if I hadn’t leapt out of my car in a buoyant mood. I tucked that moment into my heart, that Five-Eagle-Moment, pressed it in with both my hands, as I reminder that the hallelujahs are available; we just need to have the eyes to see them.