So Leonard Cohen is dead. I never met the man. I didn’t know him. I only knew of him. I’ve known of him since that first LP. He was the reason I bought my first guitar, and learned to play it…and tried to learn to play it…. so I could sing his songs.

But I never saw him ‘live,’ and if I’d passed him in the street or sat opposite him in the Tube, I would have thought, Wow! That guy looks just like Leonard Cohen!

Yet his death hits me like that of the death of a close acquaintance.  Why is that, when the means of my connection with him still exist? In fact, having bought less than half of his albums, my connection with him could in that sense double in the future, and every ‘meeting’ from the past could be replayed as fully as before.

It’s a fact of human life that we behave, and feel, as if we know people that we only know of: we care whether they live or die. We feel when they do die, and that old saying is brought to mind, that we are diminished by their deaths. Our knowledge of, and beliefs about people who are in reality strangers to us, whom we know only through the agency of third parties, can seem as real, can seem as strong, and perhaps is, as what we know and believe about those whom we encounter in our daily lives.

That’s quite a thought, whether or not we think of ourselves as writers of any kind, not least because of the ambiguities it implies.

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