Leonard Cohen’s Preborn Children Sacrificed on the Altar of Artistic Freedom
By Kevin Burke, LSW
Leonard Cohen was a Canadian poet, novelist and songwriter of classics such as “Halleluiah.” In a First Things article entitled Leonard Cohen’s Lost Children, author Jonathon Van Maren dives into some recent biographies that pull back the veil on the artist’s personal life.
Van Maren writes, “The stories of his life, lived in the heyday of the sexual revolution, include a string of abortions. They cast a dark retroactive light on some of Cohen’s most famous songs.”
Cohen came of age at the dawn of the sexual revolution. Like other artists of that era, there was a powerful temptation to justify the selfish exploitation of women for sexual pleasure, temporary comfort, and companionship.
Van Maren suggests that Cohen justified his promiscuity because it created a fertile soil for the development of his creative gifts; “Like so many artists, he deluded himself into believing that passionate promiscuity could be the pursuit of art.”
Such gifted artists, it was reasoned, must remain unfettered from the shackles of sacrificial commitment to their lovers and any children conceived from times of sexual intimacy, so they were set free to fully develop the fruits of their craft.
Another iconic artist from that period, John Lennon, sang songs of peace, love and universal brotherhood. In those heady, drug infused days of the 1960’s, an adoring public and media ignored the personal wreckage of those entrusted to Lennon’s care; his first wife Cynthia and their son Julian.
Many years after Beatlemania and the 60’s revolution, Julian had this to say about his dad:
“Dad could talk about peace and love out loud to the world but he could never show it to the people who supposedly meant the most to him: his wife and son. How can you talk about peace and love and have a family in bits and pieces — no communication, adultery, divorce? You can’t do it, not if you’re being true and honest with yourself.”
Jonathan Van Maren examines some similar dynamics in the life of Leonard Cohen, and the price his partner Marianne, and their preborn children paid for being sacrificed on the altar of his artistic creativity. Van Maren also shares how some of Cohen’s more poignant lyrics give voice to the emotional and spiritual pain that naturally arise from participating in the death of one’s preborn children.
Sin and moral blindness in the personal life of an artist, need not diminish the artistic achievements of those entrusted with such powerful gifts, and our enjoyment of their art. But it does serve as a cautionary tale for the artist, and for a public that tends to idolize our artistic heroes.
We can also look at gifted artists like Cohen, and Lennon with humility and compassion. How would we have handled such heady success and cultural influence as young adults at the epicenter of a cultural and social revolution – with all the powerful temptations that accompany such success?
Make sure to read Van Maren’s excellent article in First Things.
Check out my book on Men and Abortion, Tears of the Fisherman.
If you are a man or woman that regrets your participation in the death of your preborn child (or children), know that here is reconciliation and healing of this loss – find healing programs in your area at www.abortionforgiveness.com