-- Look How Far --
Beginning of April 1998. Calvin College.

Found on:

Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu (1999)

On this rooftop where we're sitting
In the rays of the setting sun
Glasses of wine on a crate between us
Catch the light -- seem to glow from within

And there's a laugh
Hanging in the air
And there's no
Desperation anywhere

So many miles, so many doors
Some need patience, some need force
All fall open in their own due course
To allow us this time

And your limned
In light, golden and thin
Looks to me
Like you're lit up from within

And look how far the light came
Look how far the light came
Look how far the light came
To paint you
This way

And I picture us in this light
Friendship a fine silver web
Stretched across golden smoky haze
And this is simple
And this is grace

And this light
Is a guest from far away
Passing through
The last whisper of day

And look how far the light came
Look how far the light came
Look how far the light came
To paint you
This way

Known comments by Bruce Cockburn about this song, by date:

  • 4 April 1998

    "Actually, there were two other things I really wanted to do right now, and one was The Charity of Night and one was the song [Look How Far] I wrote two days ago, that uh, the night I got here...

    This new one came from, I ran into, I didn't run into her, I sought her out, Ani DiFranco played in Toronto a couple days ago and Ani and I have this, we, we run into each other every couple of years it seems like and there's sort of very little communication in between, but we, kind of...there seems to be some sort of like, or affection and respect there and it's always kind of frustrating to me because I think she's great and an interesting individual, somebody I'd like to get to know better.

    I have no idea how she feels about me but it's always frustrating to me when I do run into her because it's always over so quick and you never really get down to anything. There is, you know, she's got a soundcheck to do or I've got somewhere to be and there's, that's just the way it is. So I started, I was just thinking, well, you know, as I, as we were driving down here I'm thinking: How do I want it to be? And I started writing how I wanted it to be a, uh, in the end it's not necessarily the 'you' in the song, isn't only Ani, it's other people too that, that with whom I have a similar kind of 'semi-relationship'.

    And it also came from, The Other Side magazine, and I can't remember the name of the guy who wrote the article but it's a recent issue in which, at one point, the writer says at the end of the story he's written that, you know, you should cherish that light because it's come a long way to get to you. And, or, words to that effect, and that image kind of struck me and I thought I'd steal it, and uh, so I did!

    Now this is one other feature of these songs is that, that they take a while to know whether they're viable or not. I mean, this thing is, whether this thing will succomb to infant mortality remains to be seen. The attrition rate's fairly high. But it's always exciting when they're new. And the other important thing of course, is that it's new and I haven't learned it yet. So, what am I doing here, okay so this is Look How Far, that's what it's called right now, and it,um and I wrote these, most of these verses, well, the two verses, um, in the truck on the way down here and when I got here I, as soon as possible, I got out the guitar and the notebook and started working on it and another verse came and the music. So, we'll see... time will tell whether this ends up in any recognizable form in some way that you get to hear again or not."

    - from "Songwriting (part 2)" workshop, Conference '98 Festival of Faith and Writing, Lab Theatre, Calvin College. 4 April 1998. Anonymous submission.

  • July 1999

    BC: "A lot of my songs are built with scenes, like movies."

    He stirs his cappucino and looks thoughtful.

    BC: "For example, I wrote the song Look How Far when I was on my way to a seminar about religion and art. The idea for the song developed after a short meeting with Ani DiFranco (Canadian folk-storyteller with her own record label, editor). You meet a lot of people in this busines and once in a while you become friends or you want a friendship, but most of the time there is no time for that. I realised that this frustrated feeling, that there is never enough time, I experience a hundred times per year. Accordingly, I asked myself how it would be if I had enough time. It's not literally about Ani DiFranco in Look How Far. It could also be Jonatha Brooke, T-Bone Burnett or Jackson Browne, or all those others with whom I have worked. The image of "look how far the light has come" originally stems from the magazine, The Other Side, a Christian-left oriented magazine. The author wrote about the tough reality and asked how long the light takes before it reaches earth. It is a beautiful image and I use it in a different way, but it stems from the magazine."
    from-- "The Rage of Bruce Cockburn", by Gerard Vos, Platenblad, translated into English by Arjan El Fassed, July, 1999.

  • 24 August 1999

    "This is a song called 'Look How Far' and I've suggested that you follow this with a track from Ani DiFranco's album, last album and... um... it was actually running into Ani -- This is good! Long winded explantions of how songs came into being, I'm not really sure are worthwhile, but here goes another one anyway [laughs].

    As I said, as I said one of the characteristics of the sort social side of what I do is this constant kind of, in a way, frustration of meeting people and bouncing off them and going away feeling like you've seen somebody that you've really wanted to see, but haven't had a chance to find out really anymore than the surface of how they are doing. And I had come away from one of those encounters with Ani in Toronto.

    She was playing in Toronto when I was leaving town the same day to go do something else and so I got to catch a little of her before the soundcheck and then I took off. And that's what sort of set this song in motion, it could apply to her, it could apply to any number of people who would find themselves, or that I would find in the same way."

    - from an interview/live performance with Laura Ellen, "Live in the Sty" programme, KPIG radio station, Freedom, California, 24 August 1999. Anonymous submission.

  • November/December 1999

    Susan Adams Kauffman: Unlike most singer-songwriters, you write lyrics first, then the music. Can you explain more about your creative process?

    BC: It's just easier for me to put music to words than words to music. I've never been able to do that, really. My songwriting requires that I sit around and do a lot of waiting. And I write a lot of drivel while waiting for a good idea to come along. then it will hit me and a song will flow out of it. For example, the song Look How Far which appears on the new album, has undergone a radical musical change, but the lyrics have stayed pretty much the same.

    Susan Adams Kauffman: That song was inspired by Ani DiFranco, am I correct?

    BC: Yeah, she was a case in point. The song doesn't end up being about this at all -- but it started from this sort of regret you feel at having these fleeting encounters with people you think could be friends, but don't get to know them well enough to find out.

    - from "Fire in an Open Hand" by Susan Adams Kauffman, The Other Side magazine, November/December 1999. Submitted by Nigel Parry.

  • 14 March 2000

    OJ: ...Like your most recent album, the song "Look How Far" which I think is a love song.

    BC: Well, yes, but not really actually its more of a... it uses the word "friendship" in the song which is really more what its about. Although, in a way, I don't like to narrow things down too much. If people want to think of their lover when they hear that song that's fine with me.

    -- interviewed by Ousman Jobarteh for "Mostly Manding", WERU-FM in Blue Hill, Maine, Tuesday 14 March 2000. Submitted by Suzanne Capobianco.

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