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How often do you rebound from indifference?

Today is December 4 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you rebound from indifference?” Elie Wiesel was a Romanian-born American writer, professor, political activist, Nobel laureate, and Holocaust survivor and observed: “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.” Indifference is the kryptonite of anyone navigating the chaos. To not care is the ultimate killer of all dreams.

As you navigate the chaos of life and put in the daily grind to translate one dream after another into reality, it is imperative to guard against indifference. Indifference can slowly creek in if left unchecked. Once unchecked, indifference can derail your ability to navigate the chaos and jeopardize the path you are traveling as you work towards achieving your dreams. Such was the case with Canadian writer, poet, and performer Leonard Cohen who had to overcome indifference as well as a variety of other personal issues in his life.

His father owned a successful clothing store but died when Leonard was nine. Cohen enrolled in McGill University where he studied English and published his first book of poetry in 1956.

He wrote other books between 1961 and 1966 and in a 1971 interview noted “I found it was very difficult to pay my grocery bill. I’ve got beautiful reviews for all my books, and I’m very well thought of in the tiny circles that know me, but I’m really starving.”

To help pay his bills Cohen started writing and selling songs. Like so many others who learned how to navigate the chaos, Coehn experienced first hand the difficulty of traveling outside his comfort zone when he confronted anxiety singing in public.

His second album, Songs From a Room, released in 1969 solidified his growing reputation as a songwriter. During the 1970s-1990s he suffered through bouts of depression and only released 7 albums during the 1970s-19902. He wrote perhaps his most famous popular song Hallelujah in 1984 for an album that his record company rejected as insufficiently commercial. Over time some 200 artists have sung or recorded it.

Between 1994 and 2001 he abandoned his music career and moved to a monastery. In 2005 he sued his former manager accusing her of defrauding him of millions of dollars. Although a judge awarded Cohen $9.5 million, he was unable to collect any of the money.

In 2008, at 74 years of age, Cohen hit the road for the first time in 15 years. This grueling world tour would last for almost 3 years, where he would perform over 200 shows, and was driven in part by financial necessity. “It was a long, ongoing problem of a disastrous and relentless indifference to my financial situation. I didn’t even know where the bank was.”

In his February 24, 2009, New York Times profile of Cohen entitled "On the Road, for Reasons Practical and Spiritual,” Larry Rohter wrote “Zen has also helped Mr. Cohen to learn to stop whining and to worry less about the choices he has made. Reflecting upon his decision to go back on tour, Mr. Cohen said ‘All these things have their own destiny; one has one’s own destiny. The older I get, the surer I am that I am not running the show.’”

Cohen recognized his indifference, accepted that he could create his own destiny, yet understood there were so many factors outside of his control. This nuanced approach to life made him one of the influential artists in recent memory.

  • How often do you remind yourself ‘the oppositive of love is not hate, but indifference?’

  • How often do you remind yourself ‘the opposite of life is not death, but indifference?’

  • How often have you been indifferent?

  • How do you know if you have been indifferent to life?

  • What is causing you to be indifferent?

  • Has your attitude prevented you from moving forward either personally or professionally?

  • Is there anyone in your life who has demonstrated indifference?

  • Have you helped anyone move forward after they realized their indifference?

  • How often do you rebound from indifference?


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