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Leonard Cohen - Show Me The Place Song Meanings

Leonard Cohen – Show Me The Place Song Meanings

The hard part in trying to write about song meanings is that if you ask a hundred people what a song means, especially those songs by the legendary Leonard Cohen, you are sure to get a hundred different answers. Why? It’s the simple answer that it means something different to everybody.
And if you think about that for just a few seconds, I’m sure you’ll agree with me. With that said, we set out to search the internet to try and discover what people think about “Show Me The Place” and what it actually means, and just like I stated, there really is no concensus of opinion.

The song as you well know is from Cohens recently released “Old Ideas” album and was first debuted on The Canadian Broadcast Corporations Radio 2 back in November of 2011. Tom Allen the host of Radio 2 had this to say after listening to “Show Me The Place.” “It is a song of surrender.”
Others were of a different opinion. For example, Jim Allen from MTV thinks it’s a song that is a “Yearning for guidance, almost a prayer to a higher being.”

Brad Wheeler from the Toronto Globe feels that the song is “ A restrained spiritual.” He ads that the line “Show me where you want your slave to go” is all about devotion in whatever way one needs to express it.
It’s no secret that Cohen has for years written songs that may be intrepeted with religious meanings and “Show Me The Place” falls right along those lines.

In one of the many forums that are dedicated to the songs of Leonard Cohen, one fan seems to think it’s Cohens way of praying and that the lyrics are all about “Asking your God to show you what he wants you to do. You once knew but need to be told again.”

Now do you see why trying to intrepet a song such as “Show Me The Way” is not the easiest task? The best thing to do is take a listen for yourself, maybe even a few times and then give us your opinion as to what you think it means.


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  • Chris says:

    We will be playing Show Me The Place at my darling husband’s funeral tomorrow, as I think it signifies the end of his suffering & the rolling away of the stone means allowing him to move on to wherever God wants him to go….

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  • Brad O says:

    Rarely can one capture all of life on one line… “The troubles came, I saved what I could save…”

    Cohen is a brilliant Jewish gentleman who uses so many Christian Biblical Ideas or the same depths that those images point to. Living a life with God on the radar causes me to a continual acceptance of my slave identity to a great master. To show me a place for this slave to go captures all the ambiguity of the life of faith… so much that is in a way uncertain, but the so much end-of-the-day substance that results.

    The frailty of the song, the style it is done in, and lyrics point to such honesty, brokeness, and humility… so many of the very themes that suffering crafts into a person of experience, wisdom, and character. Our favourite people in life exhibit this kind of humility.

    There is an undercurrent that life has a purpose, and his prayer is in his asking. Roll away the stone is worded exactly like the tomb of Jesus, and hints at bringing life again, help with the universal human burden, and matches the prayer of desperation for the Creator to have mercy on our short-fallings. The meaning of Christ on the Cross is that God wants to take our burdens, a theme that is so beautifully expressed in “Going Home” in the phrases that God wants us to be “certain that we don’t have a burden” as we face our end.

    So the deepest theme around that very few of us can ever touch on or articulate comes into play… grace. Without it, intimacy can’t exist. That God, the Supreme, generous creator that “made the game” of our lives that we struggle and rejoice through, is being turned to here.

    “I can’t move it alone”

    “Where the word became a man” is a fascinating allusion to John 1:1, in which Jesus is given the title “The Word”, and Jesus is the “Word became flesh”, or the “Word of God” or the “Message of God”. And in this song, it is all captured as “where the word became a man”. An incarnation of the message of God.

    And to show one the place where suffering began? A supremely existential challenge. The “why” behind all suffering? that is one of the deepest. Mixing it with questions of “beginnings” and existence are questions in the deepest direction… one where there is so much richness to mine out of the dark.

    “So I loved you like a slave”… imperfect people us, who love in the weakness of our insecurities. In the Psalms, God expresses the intention for us to love him as friends, not slaves. Even if we are offered “son-ship”, an inheritance, and a place in the family, our own insecurities inevitably “take us out of the race”. “Perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4) Leonard sees this, our default to “love like a slave” even when better is possible. And the ever-present chains and burdens…

    A light of hope, but chains that hasted us to the “supposed to’s” of life. To free the slaves, to break the chains, is a constantly repeated hope of the heart that God has for all, and it’s repeated in scripture immensely. Mixing the themes of brokenness, burdens and idealistic love is a direct tip of the hat to some of Christianity’s deepest contributions.

    And the mental richness of these truths and images is trumped by the spiritual and volitional way that this resonates in the soul. Cerebral understanding has it’s limits. Emotional and Spiritual filling and healing is the non-describable reality of this song. A brilliant work.

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  • old school says:

    Its clear to me he’s talking about a relationship with the father of creation

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Artist Leonard Cohen, zSong Meanings
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BiographyLeonard Cohen Biography

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Leonard Cohen - Show Me The Place Song Meanings

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