“Our Duty Is To Transcend Sorrow” “Make yourself strong and cheerful” Lessons From Leonard Cohen

A Manual For Living With Defeat

Lessons From Leonard Cohen – A Manual For Living With Defeat is a compendium of Leonard Cohen’s observations that offer insight into living in this imperfect world. Links to all posts in this series and information about how this collection differs from other sets of so-called lessons from Leonard Cohen, see Lessons From Leonard Cohen – Introduction.

Lesson #7: “Our duty is to transcend sorrow” “Make yourself strong and cheerful”

I don’t think you can regard whatever condition you are in as an experiment. When you’re in it, you are in it and our duty is to transcend sorrow. Nobody wants to stick around in these places. If you’ve got ways of getting out of them, I think it’s your responsibility to do so. As far as joy is concerned, the more the better. At the moment? I have a few laughs.1



People ask what’s your advice on the future – and I say, “Duck!” On the other hand, it’s, “Make yourself strong and cheerful.2



I feel that, more and more, I need to be strong and cheerful, to greet the daily events, the daily abrasions that seem to greet me.3


I am so often accused of gloominess and melancholy. And I think I’m probably the most cheerful man around. I don’t consider myself a pessimist at all. I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain. And I feel completely soaked to the skin. … I think those descriptions of me are quite inappropriate to the gravity of the predicament that faces us all. I’ve always been free from hope. It’s never been one of my great solaces. I feel that more and more we’re invited to make ourselves strong and cheerful…. I think that it was Ben Jonson who said, “I have studied all the theologies and all the philosophies, but cheerfulness keeps breaking through.”4

Lessons From Leonard Cohen

All published posts in this series can be found at

Lessons From Leonard Cohen
A Manual For Living With Defeat

I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted on Nov 30, 2017.

  1. Posted at Having Lunch With Leonard Cohen by Jon Wilde, Sabotage Times. Dec 3, 2015 (the quote itself is taken from a 1988 interview). Sabatoge Times 22 March 2011 although the quote itself is taken from a 1988 interview). [emphasis mine] []
  2. Maverick Spirit: Leonard Cohen by Jim O’Brien (B-Side Magazine: August/September 1993) [emphasis mine] []
  3. Leonard Cohen…What’s Your Problem? Doom and Gloom by Patrick Humphries (Vox: February, 1993) [emphasis mine] []
  4. The Joking Troubadour of Gloom by Tim Rostron (The Daily Telegraph: April 26, 1993) [emphasis mine] []

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