I heard of a man
who says words so beautifully
that if he only speaks their name
women give themselves to him.
Those lines are taken from Leonard Cohen’s first published book, Let Us Compare Mythologies, published in 1956. That Lennie. He hit on the idea early on (an idea that became cherished by randy and artistic undergraduates everywhere) that he could adroitly woo a woman into bed just by the power of his words.
The only fly in that ointment was, he was Lennie, the rest were just undergrads. We were just ‘us’. Still are, and he remains Lennie. ‘Hallelujah!’
And, Leonard Cohen’s own ‘mythology’ evinces his consummate success with the opposite sex. Of course it helped that he was dashing, charming, intelligent and immensely talented. I once saw a ballet performance of his poem ‘You Have the Lovers’, performed by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and I must say that it was one of the most erotic things I’ve ever seen. Yes, Len was a master of his craft.
But, I am not here to discuss Leonard Cohen and his cocksman prowess, what I want to consider is the whole idea of mythology – personal mythology.
We all have ourselves – and we all have our mythology. Rarely do the twain meet in real life. They only meet when we try to impact others. Or, sometimes the others know us only by our mythology, and have no inkling about the real us – the sort of bread-and-butter, or blood-and-guts us. Our spouses or lovers probably think they know the real us just because they’ve heard us fart, but that means little. It still is a matter of they only know what we let them know.
If we are emotionally healthy, we ‘know’ the truth about ourselves, as opposed to the myth, despite how much we might use the myth to perpetuate an image within the outer world, especially if we are trying to impress some individual in that outer world.
There are pitfalls in this. We fall in love with and sometimes marry somebody because we’ve fallen for an image: an image of beauty, grace and charm. Our opposite number has done the same thing. But, when we get in close quarters we find that this vision of grace also snores, shaves her legs, leaves her dirty underwear lying around, and is even susceptible to the odd bout of diarrhea. If the love was one with the ‘real’ person, such human elements are never problematic. If the love was with the myth, the relationship can be rent asunder.
There is a worse scenario, and that is one that becomes apparent with much regularity in our ‘star-fucking’ society, and that is when the myth and reality become confused within the individual. Then it can turn ugly. If a person receives accolades enough for some accomplishment or other he or she can come to believe their own legends. Then hubris becomes the dominant factor in their lives.
Some fine people walk the planet, blessedly, but there are no ‘gods’ striding amongst us, as much as we’re deluded into thinking there are. And we are so deluded, or else politicians, actors, athletes and so forth would have no careers.
In some cases such individuals go over the top with narcissism that is based solely on myth.
We know the tales of pols and entertainers who come to believe they are more exalted than the rest of us. Conrad Black and Martha Stewart, I suggest, were of the opinion that they wouldn’t ‘dare’ imprison them due to who they were. They doggedly held to that until the cellblock doors slammed. I believe that Al Capone held the same misapprehension.
Currently we have seen a few politicians of all persuasions who have twisted the thoughts of George Orwell and have come to believe that some comrades are more entitled than others, so pound salt you common taxpayer schmucks because we’ve got your hard-earned dough and we’re going to jet off, business class, to somewhere exotic.
The maharajah impulse dies hard and is still alive and well.