Canada

A Mysterious Piece of Graffiti Alley

"Only one thing made him happy and now that it was gone everything made him happy."

“Only one thing made him happy and now that it was gone everything made him happy.”

This was a piece of Graffiti Alley in Toronto that caught my attention.  It was neither the colorful paint nor underwater mural that stopped my tracks to ponder.

Rather, it was a monochromatic parchment/paper seemingly glued to the building facade. Now I know this is a certain type of street art, I’ve seen it in Detroit, but I’m no street artist so if anyone wants to enlighten me with the true name of this medium, your teaching moment is welcome.

This line, “Only one thing made him happy and now that it was gone everything made him happy” has marinated in my mind for its mystery and thought provocation. What does it mean? Who left this note?

At first this was going to be a one-paragraph post introducing the triggering line and photo and letting the thoughts simmer. However, because I prefer fact-checking prior to posting, I did a tiny Google search to see what I could uncover about this tiny piece of street art. Once again, I’m sitting here amazed at the little slices of travel, seemingly insignificant, but part of a larger pie that creates learning moments that I’ll carry to other corners of the world in our big interconnected humanity.

Turns out, this is the work of Leonard Cohen.  I believe it to be a page pulled from his publication, “The Book of Longing.” Perhaps this is a household name in Canada, but there was no recognition when I saw this name (maybe I’m showing my ignorance, but at least I’m honest). He’s a renowned singer-songwriter/musician and novelist with various honors, awards and accolades over his career. Still not ringing a bell? Me neither. But as soon as I heard this song, which he composed, the lightbulb illuminated and I said, YES! HALLELUJAH – the cultural connection has been made!

Back to the street art.  “Only one thing made him happy and now that it was gone everything made him happy.” Perhaps it was drugs, or ego, or a negative relationship that the character let go for everything to bring happiness. My thoughts are that it’s something potentially destructive that would bring false happiness. Like, binge eating an entire box of Girl Scout Cookies (ha).  But this is taken out of context; perhaps if I possessed the book, I’d have the answer.  Or maybe we don’t receive an answer and need to determine it for ourselves anyway.  And maybe there’s a reason this page is meant to be stumbled upon in an alley filled with swirling paint and colorful images.

What do you think?

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