Leonard Cohen: Dance me to the End of Love

 

It’s curious how songs begin because the origin of the song, every song, has a kind of grain or seed that somebody hands you or the world hands you and that’s why the process is so mysterious about writing a song. But that came from just hearing or reading or knowing that in the death camps, beside the crematoria, in certain of the death camps, a string quartet was pressed into performance while this horror was going on, those were the people whose fate was this horror also. And they would be playing classical music while their fellow prisoners were being killed and burnt. So, that music, “Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin,” meaning the beauty there of being the consummation of life, the end of this existence and of the passionate element in that consummation. But, it is the same language that we use for surrender to the beloved, so that the song — it’s not important that anybody knows the genesis of it, because if the language comes from that passionate resource, it will be able to embrace all passionate activity.

Leonard Cohen in an interview 

As Cohen suggests, there is a universality and passion in the lyrics that apply to a wide range of situations and that each listener will understand and relate to in their own way. 

One way to understand it is as mystics would. 

The end of love is awakening. An awakening out of ordinary ideas about love, romantic love, and love as an experience or feeling. 

Dance me to the end of love is a dance to awakening. 

God (existence, the Divine), sooner or later, dances us to the end of love. It dances itself to the end of love. 

The Divine dances itself to the end of love in all the ways we experience and live life. And we can even include romantic love here. Sometimes, the pain of romantic love helps us heal and wake up. Sometimes, we may find a romantic partner who is also a conscious partner in awakening and healing where we dance each other to the end of love (or at least some of the way!). 

As usual, I feel I need to add a few more things. 

Most forms of romantic love happens as an experience. It happens as a feeling combined with ideas. This is a beautiful form of love, but there is another form of love. It’s the love we discover in awakening, the love that comes from the One recognizing itself… as all there is without exception. This love is independent of any feelings or ideas. As someone said in Zen, it’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. Love may still come as a feeling, but the ground of love is here with or without the feeling of love. 

The love we have for a family member, friend, or lover is what we most often mean when we talk about love. When this type of love is mixed up with separation consciousness and emotional wounds, as it often is, it takes the form we often see in the world and in movies and books. It’s the love that comes with possessiveness, reactivity, and drama. When there is more awakening and healing, it comes with less of the possessiveness and drama. It’s more of a clear love where we genuinely wish the best for the other, even when it doesn’t conform with our very human wishes and preferences. 

I should add that the love we have for family, friends, and lovers can be dependent on a feeling, but it’s often not. Even if the feeling of love comes and goes, the love is there, perhaps more as a commitment and steady caring. 

When I see the end of love as waking up out of our ideas about love, it also means waking up to love as the One recognizing all as itself. And it allows any feelings of love, although with less drama depending on how clear the awakening is and how much of our human self is aligned with it. 

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