Leonard Cohen’s Song “The Future” & The Philosophy


Behind His Lyrics


Leonard Cohen, famous songwriter, wrote a song that has a disturbing yet tragically realistic prophecy of the future of human civilization. His lyrics present a model of the effect of the demise of dualism and the rise of postmodernism in today’s American society, as well as cultures around the world. How should the Christian community respond to the collapse of modernity in a world so full of hopelessness?


Cohen’s song, titled “The Future”, takes a startling look at society in today’s postmodern culture. The first few lines are as follows, “Give me back the Berlin Wall, give me Stalin and St. Paul, Give me Christ or give me Hiroshima.” These lyrics express the nation’s dire need for something to believe in and trust. However the tragedy lies in the fact that people will always look back to ‘the way things used to be’ and long for those times to return when we have worked so hard to be where we are today. Once we have the comfort to protect us and run to, we no longer fear the danger that we once ran from. Instead people will look back and think about how life was before the comfort safety came. People always need some type of security, yet it seems that we also ‘dig our own grave’ and seek the troubled ways in order to make the security valuable to us. Humans do not seem to have any tolerance for living contently without worry or without being unsatisfied.


The second phrase, “Destroy another fetus now, we don’t like children anyhow. I’ve seen the future, baby; it is murder,” demonstrates just how bleak the future has the potential to become, yet it is frightening how eerily accurate Cohen is to describing our present-day society. These lyrics comment on abortion and the destruction of the hope for the future, which lies in the children. The future is murder, but the rise of post-modernism is what is killing our nation. With postmodernism, there is no worldview. Without a worldview, there is no value to humanity, and no standard to measure our society by. Cohen is stating with these lyrics that life without a worldview is murder of our society, and we as a nation of people have become worthless without a common standard.


The following verse, “Thins are going to slide in all directions, won’t be nothing, nothing you can measure any more,” makes a reference to the absence of a standard for measurement. Perhaps Cohen is referring to measuring our society against a worldview, which is obviously not present. There is no worldview or standard by which to measure our actions and lifestyles, which means there is nothing. This nothingness is leading our society down the wrong path. If a worldview or standard were present, this ‘nothingness’ wouldn’t exist. If there is nothing in life, what is life’s purpose? If life has no purpose, what is the purpose of the human race and the society in which we live? The answer is nothing. Postmodernism has left us with this ‘nothing’, or a rejection of certainty.


The closing lines of Cohen’s song are as follows: “The Blizzard of the world has crossed the threshold and it has overturned the order of the soul. When they said Repent I wonder what they meant.” These last few lines talk about the lack of ability to change the direction of our future, and the spiritual turmoil that dwells within the human soul. Cohen is trying to state that the human soul is in a state of confusion. This confusion is probably due to a lack of a certain ‘something.’ The ‘something’ is called ‘Certainty’. It is also called ‘a worldview.’ Cohen believes that man’s soul is searching desperately for something to cling to that will offer some sort of support, safety, and certainty, but the postmodern way of life has left the soul ‘empty-handed.’ Also, the future of our society is up to us, but mankind seems to harbor the inability to change his ways, possibly because there is no reason to change. If there is not a standard to live up to, there is not a standard to change from or to change to. This is the