What does Avalanche mean?

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Leonard Cohen: Avalanche Meaning


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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

  1. anonymous
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    Oct 31st report

    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.

  2. anonymous
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    Mar 2nd 2017 report

    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.

  3. anonymous
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    Sep 2nd 2016 report

    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.

  4. anonymous
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    Jun 2nd 2015 report

    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.

  5. anonymous
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    Oct 10th 2014 report

    The first person speaking is jesus christ...

  6. anonymous
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    Feb 10th 2014 report

    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.

  7. anonymous
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    Jan 16th 2012 report

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

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