As we approach the Winter Solstice on December 21st, the lyrics from Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem” offer a message of hope in the darkness and of the inevitable imperfections we all face, within ourselves and in the world around us.
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.
These lyrics are both literal and metaphorical. Literally, light gets in through cracks. Metaphorically, it is the cracks or flaws that make beauty even more luminous and make us human and feed our souls. We don’t need to be—and can’t be—perfect. Our souls grow through imperfection. The question this month is: “What are the cracks of light you see in this winter’s darkness?”
For the Persian poet and Sufi mystic Rumi, imperfection was a requirement of enlightenment: “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” The Imaginative World of William Blake quotes a minister of Blake’s acquaintance who, when asked if the artist was “cracked,” replied, “Yes, but his is a crack that lets in the light.” The Navajo, after weaving a perfect rug, would interrupt one stitch to let the world in. The Chinese potters of ancient dynasties, having finally completed flawless work, would create a small chip to let in their soul.
Cohen, himself, reflects on Anthem. He says, “The future is no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards yourself and your work and your love...There is a crack in everything that you can put together: physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things.”
Everything and everyone is imperfect. Everything and everyone needs light to survive and thrive. It is our very imperfection that allows the light to reach and nourish us, and encourages us to go on.
Wishing you much light, darkness and inevitable imperfection in the coming year,
Steve and Kamala
P.S. Enjoy Leonard Cohen singing his “Anthem” below.