July 12 2013
We drove up to Lucca this past Tuesday, to attend a Leonard Cohen concert. I’ve been listening to Leonard since I was 21 and living in Vancouver. Then, I was soon to have my first nervous breakdown, whatever the hell that means, and so that year, when not switching beds between a famous Hollywood director and a not famous, married, art director for CBC TV, where I was also working, I kept my love-torn self company with Leonard, Judy Collins, Buffy St. Marie, Nina Simone and Dylan, of course. By then, the Beatles, who came to fame when I was 17, didn’t have quite the right tone to go with my delusional, unformed, looking-for-love-and-fame self. But Leonard had only to feed me tea and oranges or touch the dew on my hem and I would once again have hope that my life, too, would one day become poetry. For sure I identified with his bird on a wire and knew I wasn’t even close to those who might reach out for me.
It was our first time to Lucca, that ancient walled city on the northern edge of Tuscany, bordering on Liguria and Piedmont. So we decided to give ourselves 2 days there and do a bit of exploring. We’d found out about the concert through good friends and the 4 of us had grabbed some of the few remaining tickets which ended up putting us to the far right of the stage and more than halfway back. Unlike 4 years ago, when Joel and I saw him in concert at the Beacon Theatre in New York, 4th row center. A holy night, especially as it was my first time out on crutches following major foot surgery; so that evening, for me, was like going to Lourdes.
Ah, but Italy, and Leonard in Lucca; in a tree-lined piazza surrounded by medieval buildings; a very beautiful piazza, but a challenging venue for the intimacy that is Leonard on stage. The piazza was approximately 5 times wider than it was deep, about a city block wide, in fact, so when I say we were all the way to the right, I mean way over there. So when Leonard came out he seemed tinier than he actually is, which is actually fairly tiny.
Ah, but Italy, Leonard in Lucca, way over there, to the left. And in the row in front of us, right in our sightline, two snogging Italians. I mean they were snogging a thousand kisses deep, stuck to each other’s lips like cheese on pizza; and there, hovering like a specter, just over their writhing heads, sang Leonard. I’ve done some pretty heavy kissing in my time, but this couple made my sessions look like a nun kissing the pope’s ring. They didn’t come apart until intermission when, almost an hour later, they presumably left to find a bed. But not before a woman in the same row lit up a cigarette, causing an all-out argument between her and 3 other people, and this while Leonard was singing, of all holy things, ‘Bird On A Wire.” Two songs later, the guy 4 seats down from us decided to share the concert with a distant relative via cell phone…ah, Italy.
I had just started reading, about an hour before the concert, a book called Jed McKenna’s Theory Of Everything, in which he states that there is only truth and that the only truth is I Am; that I Am is consciousness and all else is belief and therefore untrue. It is, like all of his books, if you allow them to be, a challenging, mind-altering ride and if you want your money’s worth you will end up questioning everything you’ve ever believed.
I had just finished reading his theory that the majority of us believe that we are mere specks in the universe, and that the universe rules. As an example he describes a blank piece of white paper with a tiny black dot in the center as representative of our mass perception of reality, i.e., the paper is the universe and the dot is the self, or I Am. This, he says, is the trouble, we need to change paradigms; that the truth is WE are the paper and the black dot is the Universe. So I couldn’t help thinking (something that McKenna advises against) that Italy seems to have a handle on his concept: the I Am is pretty powerful here. Unfortunately it is interrupted by religion, which insists that we believe in a construct based on fear, so…no wonder it’s hard to get things done here.
But Leonard and his musicians and singers had their I Am on and kept it on for 3 hours. They were the universe…each of them in the moment, of the moment, of each other, the words, the music, the perfect offering.
After a 30-minute encore, the 4 of us strolled back to the apartment we’d rented, through the sweet streets, the geraniums cascading from every window. But oh, the traffic outside our window! Do not rent an apartment outside the wall of a walled city, for there is where all the traffic that is not allowed to enter the city goes round and round, all night long!
Our friends left early the next morning and we, having already decided not to spend another night listening to hell-bent Italian drivers, went back through the wall into Lucca for a look around. The city is exquisite, but this is not a good era for tourism; not only have we multiplied exponentially as a herd, but we no longer know how to see or what to look for. And so, in spite of the economy – or perhaps because of it, a small form of rebellion perhaps – in every town tourists can be seen lethargically walking the streets looking for something to buy. Tourists, as Joel observed, are the Zombies
But you can still buy a good panino here. We bought two, put our suitcase in the car and drove the back roads home, stopping for lunch and sitting on our picnic blanket under a line of shade trees at the edge of a field and eating those delicious panini. It’s becoming ever clearer to us that cities just aren’t our cup of tea at the moment. What joy to see our familiar hills, to say hello to the cows, water the plants and dine outside on squash soup and a vegetable frittata.
Today is Friday, housecleaning and laundry day plus errands in town. We do it all gladly, taking great pleasure in being directly responsible for all that is in our lives and having no more that that which we are capable of taking responsibility for. It seems to be a pretty I Am Consciousness way of being and, in fact, makes our universe larger than any that can be defined by a map or science, or religion, even if, as Mr. McKenna would have it, none of it exists.