The Secret Chord

Dear Pogue,

There was a time when I listened to the music of Leonard Cohen on a regular basis. My friends would joke, as we sat on late evenings, that it was music to commit suicide too. I must admit that some of his lyrics were rather stark and a little dark but he wrote great stuff. Really great.

Amongst his songs was one called Hallelujah which some say was Cohen arguing with God, the Divine. The song was later made famous by Jeff Buckley and I include a link here as most of this has just gone over your head I’m sure. Isn’t it wonderful how technology allows me to put film clips in the envelope with my letter and pop it in the post to you.

So the song starts:

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Now, the idea of the ‘secret chord’ has caught my imagination. The secret that David had one and shared with ‘the Lord’ the Biblical title for the ultimate entity, or God as I shall use from here on in.

I have always liked David when I have read the Old Testament, or the Tanakh, which was its original name. I like to see myself in David in so many ways (but then I dream strange dreams, don’t I!) No matter how educated, talented, rich or cool you believe you are, how you treat people ultimately tells all. Integrity is everything. Impetuous at times and making decisions with his heart instead of his head. Making wrong decisions that led to problems and trouble. I’ve made a few of those in my time. Down to earth and practical. And yet able, when his head caught up with his heart, to admit fault and repent. Not just say sorry, which is about as far as people go these days and then think they’ve paid their dues. No, David was at times overtaken with remorse and grief for what he had done. Refusing food and hygiene as he lamented (that’s a good old fashioned word) calling out to God in his sorrow.

One should be more concerned about what his conscience whispers than about what other people shout


Goodness, wouldn’t it be a thing if people today owned their actions and submitted to their consciences. If they were prepared to say ‘it was me’ without adding ‘but’. Imagine if it started at the top. National leaders. What a change that could bring in the world if the next pandemic was an outbreak of conscience.

So, David knew how to do relationship with God and become naked, to drop all pretence, all defence and be his truest most vulnerable self. The guy had relationship in an enviable way. It was raw and I have often read the accounts and found it easy to picture two friends laughing, walking with arms around each other’s shoulders or kicked back with a glass of something, but David was always conscious of what or who he was dealing with. The awesomeness, the darn right scariness of this God who David knew had cast stars into space. David dwelt in that relationship all his life to such a degree that he is described as “a man after God’s own heart”.


Cohen captures something of this when he expresses David as having a secret that was between him and God alone, saying ‘and it pleased the Lord’. I imagine he had a number of secrets locked in his heart that he shared only with God, and each pleased God, not because of the content but because he kept them just for God. They aligned with God’s being and resonated on a frequency not found in the world at large. There existed a relationship, an intent, coming from the heart and hidden from the world . Dare I say two lovers? His soul was naked before God. No pretence. No excuses. No ego. A rare state of being. Maybe, just maybe, something that two lovers achieve after a long journey of intimacy, joy, pain, and determination. Soul mates. A place where one heart can no longer rejoice or hurt on its own because they are now so entwined. I’m thinking this is a rare place in these days when so many believe they are entitled and should be gratified on demand.

Intimacy transcends the physical. It is a feeling of closeness that isn’t about proximity, but of belonging. It is a beautiful emotional space in which two become one.

Steve Maraboli

Some things are written in eternity and hidden in plain sight from many. Some things are not available on credit. Such was David’s relationship with the Eternal, God, and he was loved for it.

Pogue, don’t sell your intimate secrets cheaply. I know that’s the currency of the day when our deepest secrets are entrusted to Facebook and our musings and insights to Twitter. Indeed, may I suggest you forsake the modern world, the novel, for a moment in favour of older, more eternal values. A place where the fragility of your most intimate dealings is recognised, honoured and valued. Indeed, the uniqueness of your journey up to this moment in time allows for the possibility of much that could be secret if you chose for it to be so. No one, however close, however common you feel your life has been to date, has lived as you have. The possibility of you possessing a ‘secret chord’ metaphorically speaking, is large if you will but take time to consider. A thing that you can play before God. I am suggesting the nature of the Divine lays not in music as Cohen writes:

But you don’t really care for music, do you?

Rather in the currency of the relationship, the intimacy, between the parties. That one can open up his or her heart and offer up unspoilt memories, cherished experiences, a skill honed and developed in private and counted valuable is where the value lays. It’s where a doorway to something unique between you and God lays.

So sit alone and strum your guitar and be mindful God listens. Smile in your heart. Be warmed in your spirit if you have offered up something intimate and not shared abroad. Go to a secret place where two lovers can be as one, undisturbed and experience something so much bigger than yourself.

Yours, learning new chords,


8 thoughts on “The Secret Chord

  1. The first line of this letter took me back to when I was 18 years old. My boyfriend way back then, his best friend and I would get together on a Friday night…. not in a bar, or in a club. We’d meet up at Richard’s parents place (the best friend), and we’d spend the evening on their deck which had a beautiful view of the river. We’d light a fire, and sip red wine, and puff on cherry cigars. No words. Just Leonard Cohen playing in the background, as we just sat, and were. For the entire evening. That memory is one of the many happy ones in my life. Thank you for reminding me to revisit it 😉

    The rest of this post causes me to pause and think. So very true, all you have said.
    As someone who is very open in an almost vulnerable way, exposing much of myself to many people out there, it is a challenge to appear mysterious and hold back. (Yet my Facebook page does not reveal too much about me in a personally intimate way!)
    And yet, I know and understand the intimacy you speak of. And my soul smiles broadly at this knowledge.
    I also remember reading once that ‘true fulfillment is found in a place of intimacy within the soul’.
    So I definitely am with you on this, and shall continue learning and exploring new chords 😉


  2. Pingback: Vincent Ehindero Blogger Award – nopassingfancy

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