George and Leonard

Today I went to see the wondrous exhibit about Leonard Cohen at the Jewish Museum here in New York City. A good friend reminded me that it is closing in a matter of days.

In my hand the whole time I was clutching a paperback edition of Lincoln in the Bardo, my current subway reading. I find the connection between the two to be fascinating.

Here we have two deeply brilliant and profoundly talented literary creators, each grappling with the mysteries of love and connection and human existence. One was born in Quebec, the other in Texas, but both are very much citizens of the world.

Even more interesting, Saunders was raised Catholic, but then migrated to Buddhism. When you read his work, you really get a strong sense of both his Catholic upbringing and his Buddhist beliefs. He uses the mystery of Catholicism to explore Buddhist ideas.

There is quite a precise parallel going on with Leonard Cohen. He was raised Jewish, but then migrated to Buddhism. When you listen to his songs or read his poems, you get a strong sense of both his Jewish upbringing and his Buddhist beliefs. He uses the mystery of Judaism to explore Buddhist ideas.

If you go to see the Leonard Cohen exhibition, make sure to catch Ari Folman’s Depression Chamber. It is a perfect way to experience Cohen’s transcendent conflation of the world of the spirit and the world of the body.

It also feels very much like being physically immersed in a George Saunders story. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

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