Cross-Post: The Post-Rock Way–Healing | Panacea

This post was originally on my other blog about exploring spirituality and philosophy through post-rock music. I share many of the posts from that blog when I write them, as they fit in well here too. This one is about Nietzsche’s philosophy as an inspiration for an energetic/emotional stance towards life, for instance. At the beginning of the year, I wrote a post on the best albums of 2021 in post-rock, and I’ll be writing another for 2022 in the next couple days, so I recommend checking that out if you find the music in this post interesting.


The emotional associations we have with music can be profound. We can tie pieces of music to places, people, times, feelings, or likely other aspects of human experience that aren’t coming to mind right now. Music has been depicted as speaking to our emotional depths since ancient Greece (Plato’s Republic comes to mind, and Nietzsche rehabilitates the Platonic concern around this emotional impact in his Birth of Tragedy with the conclusion at the end of a Socrates coming to his senses in his final days and making music). In other words, it’s long been seen as something that speaks to the soul, so to speak. I’m struggling to write this, in fact, because phrasing anything about it as a concept or a cultural history feels too weak, as it feels like a simple and undeniable truth that music speaks to and influences us emotionally.

For myself, the strongest versions of this emotional association to music are when I’ve associated it with a person and then have had that relationship end. It’s been nearly impossible to return to emotionally charged songs after breakups in different times of my life. I actually wrote about an instance of this years ago in another post. Facing emotional associations with only the resonance of something beautiful that has been lost is hard to sit with mindfully in any way. It’s hard to sit with at all.

For me, reclaiming the positive experience associated with music like this is a crucial part of the healing process. In a way, that’s a far more accurate description of the healing process done mindfully than “time heals all wounds” (which I’ve critiqued before as an incredibly poor metaphor); just moving on by diving into some sort of river of Lethe or, even worse, revising history – isn’t really healing. It leaves wounds unaddressed and open for more festering or vulnerability that could lead to defensiveness and other ego shittiness if challenged at all about what really happened. True healing is about finding meaning in loss, facing it authentically, and reintegrating the shards of a broken heart with new meaning and accepted vulnerability. It’s about authenticity, meaning-making, acceptance, and reintegration. This means that for something like previously loved music, it’s about finding your way back to it, and if it still feels beautiful and inspiring in some way once you can get past negative reactions, reclaiming it as part of your life – authentically facing the difficulty of this being part of your story, finding new meaning in it, accepting everything that happened and your struggle to get past it, and reintegrating it back into your life with that new meaning. The healing of an authentic, engaged, mindful, spiritually driven life is one of kintsugi.

With this in mind, I’ve recently been returning to a band I have more or less ignored existed for some time, even though at this time 2 years ago, I listened to their second album roughly non-stop, becoming one of my most listened to albums of 2020 despite discovering it only in the last few weeks of the year. That band is Silent Whale Becomes A° Dream, and the impetus for this return to encounter is that they remastered their first album, Canopy, recently. The album I was hooked to previously was their second album, Requiem, but this lower bar for reclamation feels more doable.

I was surprised to find in returning to this masterwork that any concerns about pain were completely washed over by just how unbelievably beautiful this album is. This band is one of the most amazing and most overlooked post-rock bands out there. They take the orchestral sound that Mono is either loved for or passed over for and take it even a step farther. It is magnificent, multi-layered, and epic. Furthermore, it is incredibly poignant. The second album has a description (I’m not going to quote it because its long) about looking out from an oceanside cliff on the ocean and feeling the pull of existential angst – that Sartrean idea that I’m free to jump off – and combining it with the sublime desire to merge with the beauty of such a moment. It’s the pull of that existential feeling as well as the loss of the ego in identifying with this beyond oneself, the power of the sea. That may sound dramatic, but this level of sentiment is within their music. It can shake you deeply.

Their first album is just as moving, and the final song caps it all off in full intensity, and fittingly enough, it’s titled “Panacea” – the miracle cure. In this song, we can feel the miracle cure of healing by facing our fears, our angst towards death, and the painful limitations of our ego’s stories which try to protect or cover over while perhaps avoiding the truth of things. This can all be overcome in a music-induced moment of kensho where body and mind falls away, and in returning, “you” are changed. Ironically enough, it is the perfect song for the spiritual endeavor of reclaiming and the reintegration that is healing. It is truly a symbol of that panacea that is an authentic spiritual journey if we’re open to the aspect that is the Untergang, as I spoke about in a recent post. I highly recommend you open yourself to the experience and listen to this song. I’m glad to have returned to it and reclaimed it for my own journey.

Love | Ecstasis

Note: I had originally meant to write this as a post on my post-rock blog about a beautiful song regarding love, but as I started writing about the philosophical concept of ecstasy, I had a lot more to say about it than I realized, so I’m going to make two separate posts on my two blogs and link them together. This post will line out the ecstatic aspect of love in Western philosophy and how that has spiritual aspects. The other post will resonate with these ideas by focusing more on Buber’s I-You relationship and associating that to a spiritual path and a post-rock song.


The Greek word ἔκστασις (ecstasis – the root for our word, ecstasy) etymologically breaks down to meaning standing outside oneself. What do we make of this? It’s maybe not immediately obvious because like so many words, the fullness of meaning of a term is watered down in everyday usage. In it’s fullest – being in the trance of ecstasy is a unique experience of consciousness where our consciousness isn’t merely intensive positive stimulation and joy, like it’s usually used, rather a rapture that pulls us outside and beyond ourselves. It’s both a peak experience and a limit experience because in it our consciousness expands to being greater than ourselves. In a very real sense, ecstasy offers a transcendental opportunity to have new and greater insight – a perspective that sees the big picture and our place in it by stepping outside of the bounds of our subjectivity.

Although everything I’m saying resonates well with the understandings of absolute truth, interdependent origination, and the insight thereof in an experience of kensho from all the various threads of Buddhist thought, this resonance speaks more, perhaps, to true insight into human experience and epistemology that overarches both of these different traditions rather than some sort of conceptual relationship between the two. I emphasize this to point to how much this concept of ecstasy is rooted in the philosophical and spiritual structures of the Western tradition.

The concept I’m bringing forward is delineated poetically and strikingly in Plato’s Symposium. In a way, this dialogue may be taken as an archetype for the purpose of philosophy in the Western tradition, and it’s nothing short of transcendent realization of truth beyond bodily subjectivity that changes the philosopher’s understanding of and relationship to existence; to compare it to another Platonic dialogue, The Republic, getting sight of the Good, of Wisdom, changes one’s understanding of everything enough to see that the basic objects and experiences of perception are but like shadows on the wall of a cave where one has been shackled, unquestioningly. Ecstatically rising to the realm of seeing the Good is a liberation from said shackles (now riffing just a bit on the Phaedrus as well, but it’s worth noting here that the Phaedrus‘s charioteer also has an idea of rising to see the Good, and this tells us something about this conceptual framework and the way it is expressed a la Metaphors We Live By). Such an experience leads to the only conclusion of seeking a life out in the sunshine, walking unfettered, rather than sitting in subjugation to the unexamined life. Socrates explains how one climbs from one’s bodily experience of beauty to a love of beauty as a love of the Good – thereby climbing to the love of wisdom that is philo (love) sophia (wisdom). He learns this all from a midwife named Diotima, and the philosopher is supposed to act as a midwife, helping others give birth to the experience of seeing Wisdom, as she does for him, and which acts as an explanation of the Socratic method throughout the Platonic dialogues. It’s worthy of note that the experience of Truth/Wisdom/the Good is an aesthetic experience in Plato – it’s an apprehension of something beyond us that is the true, pleasing form of all that is. It is Beauty, and in a way, it’s beyond Logos – it’s immediate and not perceived as “a piece of reasoning or knowledge”.

“Try as hard as you can to pay attention now,” she said, “because anyone who has been guided and trained in the ways of love up to this point, who has viewed things of beauty in the proper order and manner, will now approach the culmination of love’s ways and will suddenly catch sight of something of unbelievable beauty–something, Socrates, which in fact gives meaning to all his previous efforts. What he’ll see is, in the first place, eternal; it doesn’t come to be or cease to be, and it doesn’t increase or diminish. In the second place, it isn’t attractive in one respect and repulsive in another, or attractive at one time but not at another, or attractive in one setting but repulsive in another, or attractive here and repulsive elsewhere, depending on how people find it. Then again, he won’t perceive beauty as a face or hands or any other physical feature, or as a piece of reasoning or knowledge, and he won’t perceive it as being anywhere else either–in something like a creature or the earth or the heavens. No, he’ll perceive it in itself and by itself, constant and eternal, and he’ll see that every other beautiful object somehow partakes of it, but in such a way that their coming to be and ceasing to be don’t increase or diminish it at all and it remains entirely unaffected.”

“So the right kind of love for a boy can help you ascend from the things of this world until you begin to catch sight of that beauty, and then you’re almost within striking distance of the goal. The proper way to go about or be guided through the ways of love is to start with beautiful things in this world and always make the beauty I’ve been talking about the reason for your ascent. You should use the things of this world as rungs in a ladder. You start by loving one attractive body and step up to two; from there you move on to physical beauty in general, from there to the beauty of people’s activities, from there to the beauty of intellectual endeavors, and from there you ascend to that final intellectual endeavour, which is no more and no less than the study of that beauty, so that you finally recognize true beauty.”

Plato, The Symposium, trans. Robin Waterfield (pp. 55, 56)

We can see, then, that the philosopher’s journey to the “final intellectual endeavour” is climbing a ladder to greater, more abstract understandings of Beauty that move farther and farther beyond his bodily subjectivity. In other words, this is an ecstasy that is provoked by relating to the beautiful with love. In a very real sense in this dialogue, the idea that “philosophy begins with a sense of wonder” (this is an idea that Socrates propounds in Plato’s Theaetetus) resonates here because our curiosity and desire for further understanding of the form of what is is that which propels us to take further steps on the ladder, one by one, and furthermore, that wonder is charged with love – love for understanding, love for experiencing the hidden wonders of further beauty. We are propelled outward from ourselves by love, an initial seed of love that pushes us to a love of all. Such a love clearly takes a particular stance, propensity, effort, and vulnerability, perhaps even the right mentorship, as nurturance to open and blossom into its fullest form. Foucault, building on Hadot’s analyses of ancient philosophy, is very right in my opinion to take elements like this as his point of departure in The Hermeneutics of the Subject and thereby tie ancient philosophy to spiritual practices that focus on how one then works to open oneself up to the truth, to enable oneself to climb the ladder to the greater ecstasy (further and further expansion beyond one’s bodily self) of access to Truth.

Plato’s works are always literary drama that presents concepts. It makes it difficult to fully understand and deconstruct what is being presented. It should be pointed out that Socrates’ coda in terms of the progression of the concepts of love presented in The Symposium (he is at the top of Diotima’s ladder) comes right after Aristophanes’ much more influential depiction of love. Aristophanes presents us with a myth in which human beings previously were the odd beasts of two bodies fused together at the back with two heads, sets of arms and legs, etc. We were whole with our other half in this myth, and the gods eventually split us apart. Thus, the concept of romantic love as being a finding your missing piece and thereby reaching completion through your other half into a unified we is at least 2300 years old in Western literature. This granddaddy version of romantic love resonates throughout our current age in the concepts of “soulmates” and “my person”. Socrates’ much drier dialogue with the midwife describing a metaphysical structure to truth and love as the impetus of the pursuit towards it stands in stark distinction not only as a counter-concept but also as something more sobering, rather than the intoxicating, dramatic words of the playwright.

Recent posts have returned to Stanley Cavell and Wittgenstein, to the idea that there are concepts which overflow beyond our usage, demand more in meaning than we have mastery of, and love is one of those concepts. With this and the preceding discussion of Plato’s ecstatic love of wisdom in mind, I would like to posit one aspect to a fuller movement towards a relationship with “Love” in our world in a way that such concepts would “bear all the weight they could carry, express all they could take from us.” (Cavell, The Claim of Reason, p. 173). A fuller weight-bearing concept of Love should be one that draws us beyond ourselves to a greater perspective: just like I’ve previously argued in my recordings that it’s a fairly basic understanding of ethics and concepts of good and evil that evil tends to be a selfish, zero-sum perspective where things are done at the expense of others. Love is generally presented as a concept in line with the aspects of the greatest goods in human existence. As such, it shouldn’t be something about me vs. others, selfishness, and zero-sum competition. Rather, it should be about something that sees greater patterns, connections, and breaks down boundaries in sharing and caring (in my last recording, I spoke in part about the etymology of care being about taking on others’ pain and problems as your own). From a set of contrasting Greek perspectives in Aristotle which I have written about before (virtue ethics and an inspired metaphysics), we would end up in the same place: love should be something that inspires us to grow into more excellent versions of ourselves, and this includes more excellent ways of behaving in the world towards the variety of people we deal with – it should make us more patient, kinder, and more giving. In this way, we can nod again towards Buddhism and point to the fact that in the Mahayana compassion and wisdom are one, intertwined endless knot.***

In summary, the ecstatic concept of love is at the core of the Western philosophical tradition. It is precisely what launches the philosopher, the greatest of lovers, on the way (the desire in philo is that which pushes the seeker towards sophia), and we can see aspects of this that should inform us to fuller and healthier concepts of love in general and fitting connections with the two guiding aims of the bodhisattva in Buddhism: wisdom and compassion.


*** I was quite dismayed when reading about the Tibetan lojong slogans last night that a variety of Western philosophical and spiritual thinkers basically balk at the concept that compassion can be enhanced or even necessary if we take emptiness and no-self as legitimate. To put it simply, they could not comprehend how we could have any incentive to be kind to each other unless we have souls and the potential for eternal reward or punishment as well as a permanent benefactor of said deeds. This seems lacking in intellectual and existential courage, not in line with our experiences (do you really hold on and recall your deeds with these motivations at all in your daily life? I doubt it.), and the least mature form of morality in Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. I’ll probably have to write further about this in the near future.

Cross-Post: The Post-Rock Way–Love | When Vocals and Lyrics are Used in Post-Rock

This post was originally on my other blog about exploring spirituality and philosophy through post-rock music. I share many of the posts from that blog when I write them, as they fit in well here too. This one is about Nietzsche’s philosophy as an inspiration for an energetic/emotional stance towards life, for instance. At the beginning of the year, I wrote a post on the best albums of 2021 in post-rock, so I recommend checking that out if you find the music in this post interesting.


During the last couple nights, I’ve posted some philosophical discussion recordings (which I call “philosophy riffing”). In my last, I spoke about many things, but one topic was struggles with reconsidering my concepts and experiences of love, including the extra layer of emotional/existential difficulty of wondering if it was all in my head for reasons which I’ll keep to myself.

During the time of dealing with these kinds of thoughts and feelings, I’ve returned to the two songs here a few times. It’s interesting that they both resonate with these issues but also stand as great examples of how vocals can be used in post-rock to great effect. I’ll include the lyrics at the end of this post but will also post links in the discussion so you don’t have to scroll up and down.

As a general overview, lets contrast some aspects to begin to preemptively load the discussion upfront. The first of these songs is more of a standard rock vocal style, where the inimitable A. A. Williams agreed to a collaboration with Mono. As such, it’s a fusion of their styles – the fullest, emotive chamber music flavor of Mono backing and strengthening the soulful voice and lyrics of Williams. The second was a request from Russian Circles to collaborate with the also inimitable Chelsea Wolfe after touring together. This song hangs as a coda to the album, taking up the refrain from the first and previous songs and transforming it into something both confused and poignant; yet unlike Mono/Williams, the vocals are also dreamy and confused. You’ll feel the emotion of it as another instrument of the mix, but you’ll almost certainly have to look up the lyrics to make out the precise words. So, in one, we see a harmonizing strengthening of the vocals and words to their most shining, lifted up by the instruments behind. In the other, it feels almost more like a post-rock song utilizing a sample, to where the vocals are infused into the instruments, making the haunting, emotive quality not reliant at all on understanding each word: getting the feel of the grief, loss, and doubt without being able to hear the concepts at play.

Now, let’s look at each of these two songs on their own. First, “Exit in Darkness” by Mono and A. A. Williams is precisely that. There’s a deep set of emotions that speak of loneliness, finding a matching presence in someone else, and the struggle of loss and moving on. Honestly, from the lyrics, I’m never completely sure with this song who has left who in the separation (although it seems likely to be the singer), and there’s also the sense that there’s not a clear break in the separation – that the singer keeps the other either merely in mind or is still contacting the other person, as she says: “I can’t let you be alone” over and over. For me, this song has resonated deeply with a being apart because of the issues of the two in the connection while also speaking to how difficult this is because of how strong the connection is. I point out my own reactions because I was a bit surprised in hearing another friend’s reaction to the song. She described it as a song to her about shadow work: going through healing and processing of unwanted and difficult emotions that have been repressed from the relationship or negative patterns that need to be addressed to grow and heal. I can see this take, as the loneliness and tension of some sort of disorganized attachment style of wanting someone but pushing them away but wanting them, over and over, feels like a red flag of something to be reworked, processed, and addressed. There is some sort of growth that needs to happen within singer and/or the other party in order for this connection to grow back together or for them both to exit from this darkness.

I need you to know
You make me whole
And I can’t let you be alone

Mono/Williams – “Exit in Darkness”

Whatever the meaning, it’s hard to deny how touching this song is. It ranks highly as one of the most emotional rock songs I’ve ever heard.

Russian Circles’ Memorial is a beautiful song of grief, doubt, and the edges of madness. It caps off the album, repeating the riff of the first song, with just the slightest shift, that had also been reintegrated in a much more massive, heavy way in the immediately previous song. This refrain – the theme of the album as a whole – is now fleshed out from it’s ghostly emotional exploration with the voice of the living, a grieving vocalist considering loss and doubting her relationship to that which she has lost. Her words feel like an existential grief as well – she grieves some part of herself that has died in this connection, and furthermore, she thinks not only on her own death in this transition but ghosts of the past that make her question what she did, who she was with, and who she is now.:

What sang in me sings no more.
Where stood a wild heart stirred no more.
There stood wild heart.
And I have been slain.
Head full of ghosts tonight.
Have I gone insane?

Russian Circles/Wolfe – “Memorial”

There’s been few times that a song about sadness has really fully captured all the layers of doubt, pain, and rumination I’ve felt. This one captures much of what I have felt in a few lines, and it does it in a voice that feels weirdly stable and logical, yet dreamy. It intensifies the feeling that these reactions are a haunting certainty that stands before us in life’s moments such as this that cannot be escaped. There is no “Exit in Darkness”, only an “Exit through Darkness”, one which challenges your very conceptions of who you are and what it might be to be with other people in the future. In some ways, this is reminiscent of the stage of a spiritual path that is depicted by the Moon card from tarot.

I can go through the lyrics and ideas, as I’ve done, but I can’t emphasize enough how much these songs are examples of post-rock’s style. The vocals are treated as instruments of their own in the mix in both of these songs and handled differently to work with this, and although I started with a brief description of this, I’m going to link the songs now and suggest you listen to them to hear the full effect I’ve described. The lyrics will also be block quoted below the song links.

How long have I been underneath?
The weight of all I’m carrying
For all my life, I’ve been the one

Who abandoned everyone

But I need you to know
You make me whole
And I can’t let you be alone

How long have you been hiding there
In all the shade and all the empty air
I could have sworn in you I saw myself
And all the questions that I ever asked
But I need you to know
You make me whole
And I can’t let you be alone

But I need you to know
You make me whole
And I can’t let you be alone

I need you to know
You make me whole
And I can’t let you be alone

I need you to know
You make me whole
And I can’t let you be alone

I need you to know
You make me whole
And I can’t let you be alone

I need you to know
I need you to know
I need you to know

But I need you to know
You make me whole
And I can’t let you be alone

Mono/Williams – “Exit in Darkness”

I cannot say what years have come and gone
I only know the silence – it breathed on and in
What sang in me sings no more
Where stood a wild heart stirred no more
There stood wild heart
And I have been slain
Head full of ghosts tonight
Have I gone insane?
Was it wrong to go down
To want you to stay?
Head full of ghosts tonight
Have I gone insane?

Russian Circles/Wolfe – “Memorial”

Philosophy Riffing | Emptiness/Form, Fixation/Liberation, Language/Life, Love/Loss, and Trauma/Understanding

This post went through a myriad of ideas and sources, from Buddhist nuns in the 1100s to Camus’ in the 1950s. I love where this one went and am grateful for anyone who walks along in these ideas and cares to comment or reach out for further conversation.

May this inspire many thoughts and your own healing.

Philosophy Riffing | Life Challenges, Living as the Person I Want to be in the World vs. “I’m a good person”, BPD, and Stoic and Buddhist Wisdom on Letting Go

I speak at length about coming to the end of cycles, struggling with the developmental shifts of life, being tested, living up to the person you want to be in the world, some random musings about borderline personality disorder, and wisdom about some of these topics from Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Machik Lapdrön (the Tibetan founder of Chöd – amazingly insightful and modern feeling insight from a female nun in the 1100s!!!).

This recording rambled a bit more than normal I feel. I hope there are pieces that resonate to any who may listen to the end. I’m grateful for you all.

Philosophy Riffing | I-You, Ethics as first philosophy, pursuing the Good, and Stoicism

Recent reinvigoration of my interest in Stoicism inspired this somewhat meandering discussion of a meaningful, value-driven life with riffs on Buber, Wittgenstein, Buddhism, and most definitely Stoicism. May this inspire others despite its lack of clear organization.

Here’s the key book I mentioned late in the recording: How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald Robertson .