What does Avalanche mean?

Leonard Cohen: Avalanche Meaning

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Album cover for Avalanche album cover

Song Released: 1971


Avalanche Lyrics

Well I stepped into an avalanche,
it covered up my soul;
when I am not this hunchback that you see,
I sleep beneath the golden hill.
You who wish to conquer pain,
you must learn, learn to serve me well.
You strike my side by accident
as...

  1. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Sep 13th !⃝

    To understand this lyric you have to get inside of the mind of LC. What did He knew about God. What was His take on Christ. As i listened this song when I was 18 i was puzzled and intrigued by the lyrics, the sinister voice, the musical composition, yet I couldn’t make a lot of sense of the lyric. At age 31 i studied the bible intensively and my life completely changed. Holy Spirit taught me, experiencing Gods presence, experiencing a lot of miracles, understanding God’s logic, etc. So… 40 years later, with renewed insight, Avalanche came to my mind. I listened and finally could master it.

    I stepped into an avalanche
    It covered up my soul
    (A realisation that mankind lost the image and likeness of God in Adams fall)
    When I am not this hunchback that you see
    I sleep beneath the golden hill
    (Jesus looked defeated, yet conquered death, and restores us by His Spirit to Gen 1:27: His image His likeness. He is at rest beneath the Golden hill and so are we.)
    You who wish to conquer pain
    You must learn, learn to serve me well
    (A wrong assumption that God needs/wants to be served to bless. It is the other way round. In Christ we are restored to divine origin).

    [Verse 2]
    You strike my side by accident
    As you go down for your gold
    (May point to the spearstrike afflicted on Jesus, “gold” came out, the once and for all perfect sacrifice was made)
    The cripple here that you clothe and feed
    Is neither starved nor cold
    (Own works to make you feel good, do not make you righteous and are often done just to be noticed)
    He does not ask for your company
    Not at the center, the center of the world
    (A wrong assumption that God doesn’t need your company. It is the other way round. After all: “It pleases the Father to give you the Kingdom, Holy Spirit, Divine nature back”.

    [Verse 3]
    When I am on a pedestal
    You did not raise me there
    (Jesus is the pedestal, he need not be raised by our efforts))
    Your laws do not compel me
    To kneel grotesque and bare
    (Correct insight. God doesn’t want to be glorified by man. He thrives in glorifying you, His creation.)
    I myself am the pedestal
    For this ugly hump at which you stare
    (Christ is the pedestal, even though He may not have the appearance of almighty God, He is God manifesting in human form).

    [Verse 4]
    You who wish to conquer pain
    You must learn what makes me kind
    (Wrong assumption. God is kind. Always. That’s why he stooped down in Christ to restore us back to origin: 2 Cor 3:18. So we don’t learn what makes Him kind, we discover that He is kind wich is the biggest “painrelief”for you-manity)
    The crumbs of love that you offer me
    They're the crumbs I've left behind
    (Bears witness to the incomplete view LC had on Gods goodness revealed through Christ).
    Your pain is no credential here
    It's just the shadow, shadow of my wound
    (Again, limited insight. God cares highly for mankind. Considering the boisterous love expressds by Jesus hanging on a cross to give us back the original Zoe-life!)
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    Sweet
    Lana Del Rey
    (You might as well, she is cute)
    Kintsugi
    (The art of brokenness. Limited insight. Not applicable on God. God restores you from the brokenness of mankinds fall. No need to embrace past scars. Zoe-life, the Kingdom has come)
    Lana Del Rey
    Paris, Texas
    Lana Del Rey
    [Verse 5]
    I have begun to long for you
    I who have no greed
    I have begun to ask for you
    I who have no need
    (True. God longs to share His Kingdom, Zoe-life back to you-manity)
    You say you've gone away from me
    But I can feel you when you breathe
    (Separation from God is an illusion. He is here right now working in the invisible to regenerate Gen 1:27 in us).

    [Verse 6]
    Do not dress in those rags for me
    I know you are not poor
    (False humility doesn’t make you pious. No need to either. You are loved by God. A receptor of His Holy Spirit).
    And don't love me quite so fiercely now
    When you know that you are not sure
    (Again. No need to exaggerate your love for God, trying to please Him or trying to get noticed. Yet we may be very sure in loving God once we understand what He has done for you-manity.)
    It is your turn, beloved
    It is your flesh that I wear
    (Epic truth! God dwells within you. When we change by His Spirit we become more and more an expression of our true self: The image an likeness of God. That would be Christlikeness. For Christ is the exact image of the invisible God… The image we were created after and…. Are being restored to by His life, words, prefect sacrifice, His Spirit. “Holy Spirit brings forth after His own kind”.)

  2. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Oct 31st 2022 !⃝

    As with many other Cohen songs I always took this to have a meaning reflective either of Jesus specifically or the divine on a more general level.

    Many lines:
    "your laws do not compel me to kneel grotesque and bare", or "do not dress in those rags for me when you know you are not poor, do not love me quite so fiercely now when you know you are not sure", seem to refer to those who attempt religious worship, but are overly fervent or too wrapped up in themselves.

    "those who wish to conquer pain", refer to those who seek a path of contemplation, but must learn what makes god or the divine kind, and from where god's love comes.

    The "cripple that you clothe and feed", seems to imply useless charity, especially after the reference of "striking my side by accident whe you go down for your gold", which sounds (as another person said), like a reference to pursuit of wealth, prophet or worldly goods, especially through destruction of the natural world.

    The "hunchback", referred to could imply either a misrepresentation of divinity, or a direct reference to some form of stigmata.

    The final lines: "it is your turn to love it, it is your flesh that I wear", imply that only through serving others will it be possible to come closer to the divine.

    Again, I could be entirely wrong, but this has always been one of Cohen's most mysterious, and most profound songs, so it always sounds to me like it has a particularly profound meaning.

  3. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Mar 2nd 2017 !⃝

    When I stepped into this world of form, it concealed my true identity. When I am not blinded by that illusion, I realize Im one with the universe, or God if you like. The pain I wish to conquer is the illusion of separation form the universe that I feel as an isolated Ego.
    My Ego won't let me have a divine experience because it's to busy serving it self going after some "gold" or material satisfaction. Mystical experience sometimes happens by accident revealing a divine insight, that would have otherwise been crushed over and over again and swept under the rug of consiousness by Ego. Luckily, the freezing starving truth doesn't need the Ego in order to exist, and the Ego is not welcome company anyway.
    When the idea about our being one with the rest of the universe is defined by Ego's words, ideas, and what have you, it's a terrible characterized image of reality. Reality does not conform to our laws, and nobody notices that reality is the pedastil, not the thing (ugly hump) we put on top.
    I who wish to conquer pain must live (serve) in accordance with nature as much as possible. The crummy Ego driven love has no power here and does not mean much... and is very dangerous. Ego pain is another shadow compared to reality, and until we let go of it we won't know any better.
    The universe may not care if we "wake up" and see the truth, but maybe "God" does. In that sense, "God" longs for us to love him with all our heart, but his existence does not depend in it. He doesn't "need". The Ego says things like : "I think therefore I am" or "the universe is not intelligent" so, we separate ourselves from it intellectually and treat it thusly. Thing is, even though we say we have gone away from it, it "feels you when you breath."
    P.S. do not dress in those "rags" for me, I know you are NOT poor (you have an awesome world to live on, water and everything you need, free will, life, the opposite sex, music and beer haha) Don't love me so fiercely now with those bogus crumbs... they are not real love. It is you world beloved. It is your flesh that I wear. (We are already one. It is an illusion that we are not.)

    Well, that's as close as I can come to an interpretation of the "meaning" of this song. I think it is very big, and is not about one individual, or something small like a single relationship. Leonard may have had in mind more the a biblical slant, which would be great, but hey, it's up for interpretation.

    Let me know what you think. Or not, whatever.
    Sincerely, Trey Sumerlin.

  4. anonymous
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    Sep 2nd 2016 !⃝

    I have always seen this song as speaking empathically to the plight of deformed, handicapped, socially "ugly", disfigured or otherwise outcast hermits, living on the fringes of society.
    One of the most powerful lines ever written
    (in my humble opinion [and one which I have often quoted or paraphrased]): Your pain is no credential here, it's just a shadow of my wound."
    Also,: "I, myself am the pedestal for this ugly hump, at which you stare..."
    As an impressionable teen at the time,(and one who stood up to bullies on behalf of a couple of the "Special Ed. kids"), this song seemed very soulful and moving.
    Yeah, maybe I'm reading too much into it, only Mr. Cohen knows for sure...

    Jim Odgers

    Thank you Ms. Toland, the teacher who introduced me to "Songs",and a Canadian film about L.C., back in the day.

  5. anonymous
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    Jun 2nd 2015 !⃝

    The voice of god to the unenlightened seeker. Warnings of what lies ahead, reproaches for ignorance and highlighting the tepid efforts of that one. But delightfully instructing that one nevertheless and giving clues that can't be guessed at but maybe can be received.

  6. anonymous
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    Oct 10th 2014 !⃝

    The first person speaking is jesus christ...

  7. anonymous
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    Feb 10th 2014 !⃝

    I interpret this song as being about Nature/the natural world/the inevitability of Life and Death, and the futility of attempting to tame or defy the course of Nature/Death/etc, and the hubris of humankind's presumptions of being powerful & capable of influencing or controlling the natural world.

  8. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jan 16th 2012 !⃝

    It's about G-d and the incarnated soul.


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