Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Demis Roussos, Aexhaltation, Phaedrus. He was sad beyond sad but did it anyway.

This man's performance is sublime. If I could sing, move, and emote like Demis Roussos, well... maybe my generation has aestheticized and internalized profound irony so deeply it's subjectively indistinguishable from exaltation.

D's remarks: "okay, take a little Devendra Banhart, shake with some Joe Cocker pit stains and Roger Whitaker seaspray aura, and puree till nice and smoooooth"
I haven't heard much interesting from Banhart but appreciate Joe Cocker's twitchy soulishness, and look forward to a new world in the morning with Roger Whitaker. Matter of fact I would have melted had they played that at the inauguration.

My new term-Aexhaltation: an act of relating to the greater human whole upon finding an aesthetic object which provides a renewed relationship with culture allowing a release of what, in the observer, is being witheld in its perceived absence. Edits pending.

Back to Roussos: House of the Rising Sun. Chariots of Fire. Vangelis. TWA flight 847, 1985

There's a darkness in Roussos' face beyond theatrics related to the character of Phaedrus (the wolf) in Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Here's a passage, essentially describing the death of Phaedrus (warning, spoiler!):

What is good, Phædrus, and what is not good...need we ask anyone to tell us these things?

It is what he was saying months before in the classroom in Montana, a message Plato and every dialectician since him had missed, since they all sought to define the Good in its intellectual relation to things. But what he sees now is how far he has come from that. He is doing the same bad things himself. His original goal was to keep Quality undefined, but in the process of battling against the dialecticians he has made statements, and each statement has been a brick in a wall of definition he himself has been building around Quality. Any attempt to develop an organized reason around an undefined quality defeats its own purpose. The organization of the reason itself defeats the quality. Everything he has been doing has been a fool's mission to begin with.

On the third day he turns a corner at an intersection of unknown streets and his vision blanks out. When it returns he is lying on the sidewalk, people moving around him as if he were not there. He gets up wearily and mercilessly drives his thoughts to remember the way back to the apartment. They are slowing down. Slowing down. This is about the time he and Chris try to find the sellers of bunk beds for the children to sleep in. After that he does not leave the apartment.

He stares at the wall in a cross-legged position upon a quilted blanket on the floor of a bedless bedroom. All bridges have been burned. There is no way back. And now there is no way forward either.

For three days and three nights, Phædrus stares at the wall of the bedroom, his thoughts moving neither forward nor backward, staying only at the instant. His wife asks if he is sick, and he does not answer. His wife becomes angry, but Phædrus listens without responding. He is aware of what she says but is no longer able to feel any urgency about it. Not only are his thoughts slowing down, but his desires too. And they slow and slow, as if gaining an imponderable mass. So heavy, so tired, but no sleep comes. He feels like a giant, a million miles tall. He feels himself extending into the universe with no limit.

He begins to discard things, encumbrances that he has carried with him all his life. He tells his wife to leave with the children, to consider themselves separated. Fear of loathsomeness and shame disappear when his urine flows not deliberately but naturally on the floor of the room. Fear of pain, the pain of the martyrs is overcome when cigarettes burn not deliberately but naturally down into his fingers until they are extinguished by blisters formed by their own heat. His wife sees his injured hands and the urine on the floor and calls for help.

But before help comes, slowly, imperceptibly at first, the entire consciousness of Phædrus begins to come apart -- to dissolve and fade away. Then gradually he no longer wonders what will happen next. He knows what will happen next, and tears flow for his family and for himself and for this world. A fragment comes and lingers from an old Christian hymn, "You've got to cross that lonesome valley." It carries him forward. "You've got to cross it by yourself." It seems a Western hymn that belongs out in Montana.

"No one else can cross it for you," it says. It seems to suggest something beyond. "You've got to cross it by yourself."

He crosses a lonesome valley, out of the mythos, and emerges as if from a dream, seeing that his whole consciousness, the mythos, has been a dream and no one's dream but his own, a dream he must now sustain of his own efforts. Then even "he" disappears and only the dream of himself remains with himself in it.

And the Quality, the areté he has fought so hard for, has sacrificed for, has never betrayed, but in all that time has never once understood, now makes itself clear to him and his soul is at rest.


  1. You give voice to my innermost hopes and fears. God bless you, sir!

  2. Excellent find - Demis is weird and ethereal. I hate to say it, there's some John Parr (check youtube) in this guy's voice (or vice versa). Roger Whittaker has always been one of my Gods. Everyone needs a sea shanty now and then.