Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Disciple, Discipline, Craft, Dogs, and Leonard Cohen

Alan Showalter posts on Leonard Cohen's Facebook page: about Cohen's "writing contract" at Mrs Pullman’s Boarding House in Hampstead, London in 1960:

It was in December 1959 that Leonard Cohen moved into Jake and Stella Pullman's boarding house at 19b Hampstead High Street in London. Leonard described the living arrangement to Jarvis Cocker in a Jan 2012 BBC interview: "I lived at the corner of Gayton Road and Hampstead High Street in 1959. I lived with my landlady, Mrs Stella Pullman. I had a bed in the sitting room and I had some jobs to do, like bringing up the coal to start the fire every morning. She said to me, ‘What do you do in life?’ and I said ‘I’m a writer.’ She said, ‘How much do you write?’ and I said, ‘Three pages a day.’ She said, ‘I’m going to check at the end of every day. If you haven’t written your three pages and you don’t bring up the coal, you can’t stay here.’ She did that, Stella Pullman, and it was under her fierce and compassionate surveillance that I wrote my first novel, The Favourite Game at the corner of Gayton Road and Hampstead High Street so I do have some deep feelings about those moments I spent there."

I like this story because it recapitulates quite a lot.  Leonard Cohen is a lot of things -- singer, songwriter, musician, painter, poet, and novelist -- but he has also (still) a Sabbath-observant Jew who has been a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk who is a student (and was a personal assistant) of teacher Kyozan Joshu Sasaki. In short, this is a man who understands both the word disciple, and the world discipline in all its form; craft, practice, consequence, prayer.

I bring this up, because the word "discipline" can mean many things in the world of dogs and it should, properly, mean all of them.  Dogs are a discipline, and they need discipline, which is, of course, not always punitive or harsh.

If you do not have discipline, there is nothing I can say about dogs that will make you a dog man, and if you have discipline, there is nothing I can say that will prevent you from becoming a dog man if you wish to become one.

There is a Kung Fu to dogs.  Look up the word; it is a perfect term and there is much within it.

1 comment:

Jacob L'Etoile said...

I always say mine do what their told because that's just what they do. it is a basic expectation, do what your told. That is not to say they always do what I ask, but them NOT doing what I ask is the abnormal, even if it is the most common result, if that makes any sense at all.

As a Kung Fu aside, my teacher's teacher used to say that your shield was a stack of the finest tissue. every hour you practiced you could add one sheet.

no particular hour made the slightest difference, no week. even years only added a tiny bit. but the hours, weeks and years of practice were all you had to shield you. This has stuck with me, longer than my practice of martial arts has.

And Leonard Cohen is awesome. the man has what it takes.