I’ve been feeling very grateful lately, and I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you.
I got an email from Blog Talk Radio a little while ago, as I do each week, with stats for the show. I won’t waste your time with lots of detail, but the overall numbers showed that more people had listened to the show on this past Saturday than had to any other show since last November!
Since we’ve gone through a big change recently, this means a lot to me, and I can never thank you enough for the support!
Our numbers continue to steadily rise, which I guess means that some of you are telling your friends about us!
And it isn’t just the listening numbers for Saturday’s show, either. Podcast listening and downloads are going way up, and so is overall traffic to the website!
I’m pretty sure some of that website traffic is due to Adam the Crystal Grid Maker and his Healing Stone of the Day, and I’m also very grateful to him for sharing that with us.
Social media numbers are up, too! Facebook likes have increased over the last month, and Twitter is really taking off!
I hope this doesn’t come across as bragging, as that’s not my intention. It’s great that I’m able to share what I hope are messages of comfort, hope and healing, and the more people that get to experience that, the better.
This also isn’t about how popular I am, Far from it.
What it means to me is that what Psychic Tapestry is doing, or trying to do, is resonating. And I am thankful for each and every person who reads this, or even skims it. I’m thankful for everyone who tunes in, at least for a little while, on Saturdays or listens to at least part of the show through the podcasts.
And I’m thankful for every like, every follow, every comment, every Tweet.
So, that’s it. No sales pitch. No plug.
Just a very simple message.
The song was not originally released as a single, and garnered almost no airplay. Cohen did perform it in concert over the next few years, though the version he played contained different lyrics from the commercially released version on his album.
While many of the cover versions are much smoother, I like the gritty and raw sound of the original. It’s a song about almost everything in life, and life just isn’t always smooth and pretty. It’s also about hope, perseverance and, with faith or maybe with luck, triumph.
Here’s Cohen performing the song live, with some of the added verses…
The story of this song doesn’t come close to ending there.
At some point in the mid to late 1980’s, Bob Dylan began performing the song in concert. From there, the Velvet Underground’s John Cale heard it and wanted to record it. He contacted Cohen, who faxed him fifteen pages of lyrics.
Cale picked what he wanted and recorded his own version of the song for a tribute album to Leonard Cohen. His cover version was more piano driven, and is much closer to the version many others would cover than Cohen’s original.
In the early 1990’s, Cale also recorded a live version, which would appear on his own album, Fragments Of A Rainy Season.
Here’s John Cale, on stage alone with his piano, with his take on “Hallelujah”…
This is where I think it gets very interesting.
A solo artist named Jeff Buckley was playing clubs in New York City, and he recorded a four-song Live EP called Live At Sin-é, which included a version of “Hallelujah”. This was his first release. He followed it up in 1994, a year later, with his first album, which was called Grace. In addition to original material, he also recorded a version of “Hallelujah”.
Again, there was no single. Critics loved him. In fact, about a decade after his first album was released, Rolling Stone would name him as one of the greatest singers of all time.
Here’s Jeff’s very powerful version of “Hallelujah”, which is so powerful that many people believed it was his original song!
That’s been viewed over forty million times, and Sony only posted it to YouTube a few years ago!
Tragically, Jeff Buckley drowned in 1997 and, while there have been some posthumous releases, he never completed his second album.
Into the 2000’s, and more versions popped up, started to appear on the charts. Rufus Wainwright and k.d. lang had hits with “Hallelujah” in America, while Epsen Lind took it to number one in Norway.
In 2008, Alexandra Burke sang the song as she competed on the British version of “The X-Factor”. Burke did win that year’s competition, thanks in no small part to her version of “Hallelujah”.
Jeff Buckey fans were outraged. Burke’s version of the song was climbing the charts due to her television appearance, and Buckley fans began a campaign to get his song onto the charts and keep Burke from getting to number one.
Burke’s version sold well, and set records, and while it went to number one in the U.K., Jeff Buckley’s version was right behind it at number two, giving him his first smash hit, sadly arriving over a decade after he’d passed away.
That same year, while Burke and Buckley were at the top of the charts, interest in the original version began to grow, and Leonard Cohen’s original version cracked the top forty.
The song’s popularity continued to grow.
Kate Voegele performed it on One Tree Hill. Classical vocalists Renee Fleming and Katherine Jenkins each recorded it. American Idol’s Jason Castro also recorded it. And so did German electronic band Tangerine Dream.
Bon Jovi had a hit with it in Austria. And Justin Timberlake had a hit with it in the U.S. (and eight other countries).
It’s been used in lots of television shows, including “The West Wing”, “Scrubs”, “The O.C.”, “House”, “Criminal Minds”, “ER”, “Ugly Betty” and “Dancing With The Stars”. And it’s showed up in plenty of movies, too, including “Shrek” and “Watchmen”.
“Hallelujah” has been performed by over three hundred artists worldwide. The BBC has filmed a documentary on it (which you might be able to watch online one of these days RIGHT HERE), and there’s even a book that has been written about this one song (which you can find out more about if you click the book cover)!
I feel like at this point, there should be some profound revelation. What does it all mean? This song has been recorded and performed by hundreds of artists all over the world.
It has endured and triumphed over incredible odds. The original artist’s record label nearly refused to release it. Buckley died in that in-between time when MTV was fading and iTunes and YouTube were still years away.
Plus, even if you don’t try to include all of Cohen’s original 80+ verses, it’s still a pretty long song! Most versions clock in at over seven minutes, and there just aren’t that many popular songs that are that long.
Enduring and triumph. Music did that. It helps us get through, even when we feel beaten and worn out by the struggle. It helps us to be grateful for what we have, and it gives us hope for what we can achieve.
Whether you prefer that gritty and raw version that Leonard Cohen first recorded, or you like the more popular voices singing a smoother song, it still comes down to the same thing.
A global love for music. It unites. It heals. It touches our hearts and our souls. It helps us all muster the strength to whisper, to shout and to sing.
This song wasn’t a hit. Well, not the Beatles’ version, that is.
It was a top twenty hit for Bette Midler almost twenty-five years ago. Judy Collins did a memorable version of it in 1967. And it’s also been covered by Johnny Cash, Ozzy Osbourne, Jim Brickman, Stephen Stills, Keith Moon and the Cast of “Glee”.
Believe it or not, Sean Connery even recorded a version!
The reason it wasn’t a hit for the Beatles was pretty simple. In those days, the Beatles believed that singles and albums were different things. Songs that were to be released as singles weren’t on their album, and songs recorded for their albums weren’t released as singles.
Originally, John Lennon wrote “In My Life” as a kind of chronicle of his childhood. He didn’t like the first draft, which he thought was too much like "the most boring sort of 'What I Did On My Holidays Bus Trip' song".
So, he reworked into a kind of meditation on his past, a tribute to the places he’d been and the people, alive or dead, that he’d known.
We all have places we’ve been to that have special meanings to us. For some, it’s because a special event occurred in that space. For others, it’s because that’s where they find peace.
The ocean is the latter for me.
There is just something about it that soothes my soul. I’ve been to beaches up and down the Atlantic coast and, while different towns and communities make each unique in their own way, the result for me was always the same. I could relax. I could let go of daily/weekly/monthly stress. I could heal.
Now that I live on the opposite side of the country, I’m pleased to report that I have the same reaction to the Pacific. In fact, often times when I meditate, that’s where I go.
Right there, sitting on the bench, staring into the ocean while it stares back into me.
One of the things that brings me peace at the ocean is the enormity of it all. I can sit on that bench and look to the north, and there’s nothing but ocean stretching out to infinity. Perhaps Sarah Palin’s house is up there somewhere, or, if I’m looking a few degrees west, perhaps that’s Russia.
Looking straight ahead, it’s the same. Somewhere out there is Japan, but all I see is blue ocean.
And if I shift my gaze to the south, more of the same. Antarctica is down there somewhere, but it’s just more ocean to me.
While it may not be as infinite as looking into space, it feels like it is. And it feels old and wise. Those waves have been rising and crashing long before I found this bench. And they’ll keep on rising and crashing long after I’m gone.
Technologies have been invented and become obsolete. Empires have risen and fallen. Dinosaurs became fossils. And the ocean kept trucking along.
The seemingly infinite size of the ocean makes me feel like I can dump any problem I have in there, and the ocean can take it and that problem is never seen or heard from again.
Something as small as a stack of bills. Plunk. A troubling person. Plunk. Car repairs. Plunk. Anything I want. Mortgage or home repairs stressing me out? The whole house can go in there. Job issues? I’ve dumped ten story buildings in there and they vanish without a trace.
I know it’s kind of symbolic. And when you break it down to talking about throwing people in there, it’s kind of petty.
But it’s also therapeutic.
The ocean is eternal. It’s been churning for longer than we can ever really know, and it will keep going long after we’re gone. So whatever problem I’m imagining that I’m throwing in there is such a small, tiny thing that, certainly as far as the ocean is concerned, it doesn’t really matter.
I think that’s one of the things it’s hard for us to see. The things that weigh us down, keep us up at night and otherwise make us crazy…in the grand scheme of things, they’re tiny things that really don’t matter that much.
Think about where you were ten or twenty years ago, and the things that were stressful to you then. Can you even remember them? And if you can, do they matter now?
I’m not suggesting you shirk responsibilities. We all have bills to pay. We all have obligations. But we can also deal with those things without letting them cripple us.
Some problems are big. I certainly get that. But instead of focusing on that feeling of overwhelming helplessness, try to imagine yourself a little farther down the road. Is this something that will stick with you? If not, throw it in the ocean. If it will still be with you, then figure out how to whittle it down to a manageable size.
While going to the ocean doesn’t solve all my problems, it does help me get perspective, and feel a little better about whatever I do still have to grapple with.
I mentioned before how “In My Life” was a kind of meditation for John Lennon, and when anyone uses the word “meditation”, it raises flags.
Meditation isn’t some crazy, California thing. And it’s not about hypnosis, so you don’t have to worry about thinking you’re a chicken. It’s simply imagining yourself somewhere that you can find peace.
For me, I imagine I’m at the ocean.
I’ve been there enough times in person to be able to catalogue, and recall, how it plays out across all my senses.
The sunlight on the water, looking like millions of diamonds spread out from horizon to horizon.
The sound of the waves, crashing and building and crashing again, before finally slapping against the shore.
The breeze that is almost always blowing, cooling against my skin, sometimes making me forget that the sun is out there, not caring whether or not I remembered to put on sunscreen.
The rich scent of all that is the beach – the saltwater thick in the air with a touch of Coppertone.
And the salty taste of the ocean air, subtle but unmistakable.
Think about places you’ve been. Is there somewhere that kind of fits that bill? Some place that you know well enough to recall the sights, the sounds, even the taste?
If not, you can always create a place. Just imagine what it would be like, and imagine how all your senses respond.
And if that’s too difficult, you’re always welcome to use my bench. And while you’re there, you can feel free to dump all your troubles in my ocean, too.
Wanting things isn’t a bad thing. We all want things. It’s part of what makes us human. For most of us, ambition drives us to achieve, or get, what we want. It doesn’t always work, but we try.
The problem, though, is the notion of having it all.
Somewhere along the way, we got this idea that we could have it all. And worse, we’re led to believe that we’re failures if we don’t have it all.
There was an interview this week, posted on several news sites online, with PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi. In it, she candidly remarked that, as a business woman, she’s had to make some difficult choices between career and parenting, concluding that women just can’t have it all.
It reminds me of that perfume commercial from the 1980’s (or possibly 1970’s), where the woman sings, in sexy voice, how she can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never let you forget you’re a man. I hope that isn’t where the idea of having it all came from, but that’s what leaps to mind.
The truth is, none of us can really have it all.
We all have to make choices and sacrifices, and we have to live with the consequences. We can try to be the perfect spouse and the perfect parent, the perfect employee or employer, the perfect son or daughter, and the perfect brother or sister. But all of those things don’t always go together, hand in hand.
The trick is to not let it weigh you down. And I think that’s the trap a lot of us fall into.
I don’t run a giant company like PepsiCo. But I do work hard. Probably too much.
My daughter is a figure skater, and I used to go with her to her lessons on Friday mornings, but work has made that increasingly difficult, if not impossible.
My son sings, and while I do attend his concerts, I couldn’t go to the CD-listening-party his school had recently, where they listened to one of his last shows.
My wife is a writer, and I haven’t been able to put aside enough time to read her latest books.
Despite all of that, I am hopeful that each of them knows that I love them. I make the effort to be the best husband and the best father that I can be. Sometimes, I do well, and sometimes I fail. But my love for them never waivers. And I do my best to make sure they know that.
Don’t get me wrong. I want to do all those things I mentioned above, that I just can’t, at least not right now. And the fact that I want to do those things, and more, but can’t, well, it’s certainly frustrating.
But it doesn’t make me feel like I’m somehow less of a husband or father. And since I got hugs from all three of them recently, I know they don’t think I’m less, either.
I’m okay with wanting it all, and yet, not having it all.
And that is the real trick.
Society has ideas on what our roles should be, and doesn’t like it when we color outside the lines. If you’re driven toward career-related success, then you can’t be a good parent. If you want to be a good parent, you can’t have much of a focus on your profession. And if you want to have a loving relationship with your spouse, and be true best friends as well, then you shouldn’t have kids.
And on and on and on.
But all those things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Besides, if you really got to have it all, what would there be left to hope for? To wish for? To live for?
The song here was a hit for Queen in 1989, two years before Freddie Mercury passed away. He was already sick, but managed to hide it while they filmed the video.
It’s a song about ambition, striving to do what it takes to achieve your goals. I want it all and I want it now.
And I think Freddie would be among the first to tell you that, whatever roles society dictates, they just don’t apply here. Just do the best you can. And make sure that those you love KNOW that you love them.
That makes all the difference.
Ken Kessler has always been interested in psychic phenomena, and like Mulder on the X-Files, wants to believe. But like most, he tends to look for, and accept, rational explanations. (More)