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.

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