By H. Peter Steeves
The latest album from indie-rock band Typhoon, fronted by Kyle Morton, is an existential trip through birth, sleep, love, life, and after-life. With ties to Greek mythology, surrealist filmmaking, twentieth-century literature, and the history of philosophy, Offerings is an album that invites the listener to imagine a stream of consciousness that navigates a watery life-path toward something liberating. This essay traces the conceptual themes at work in the music and lyrics of the album, offering a song-by-song analysis of an intricate narrative that unfolds within a work of art that deserves to be recognized as a contemporary masterpiece.
Rock, Indie-rock, music criticism, music theory, philosophy, existentialism, birth, death, sleep, dream, liberalism, communitarianism
It is the first word, the first command, the first plea that Kyle Morton and Typhoon offer us on their latest album, Offerings. And it is an intriguing one. Of course, every album begins with the command, Listen; every book with the command, Read. This is the force of the medium beneath the message: the book in all of its bookness asking you to pick it up, the song by its very essence asking you to hear it. Just as every sleep commands, Dream, and every life commands, Live. And so we listen.
Offerings is the fourth album from Portland, Oregon-based Typhoon, and one could call this the band’s most mature album, though to do so runs the risk of prizing maturity over youth, perpetuating a mistaken belief that living more necessarily means knowing more. But Offerings is mature. And one could call this album Typhoon’s darkest as well, though again the risk is that we give in to the false promise of the Enlightenment and think that darkness is somehow bad.
“List, list, O, list!” says Hamlet’s father’s ghost to his son. Hamlet heeds the command, listening, becoming the living audience to the dead, baring witness, and remembering. And unable to forget what he hears, Hamlet loses his mind. If we think that truth is the uncovering of everything, a shining of light into every dark corner, exposing what is hidden once and for all, we misunderstand the nature of truth. This is the Enlightenment conception of truth that Morton battles. The sort of truth that dreams of the lights always being on, forgetting that it is difficult to sleep without any darkness. This is the sort of truth that causes perpetual insomnia—which inevitably leads to madness. The command that Offerings’ protagonist—let us call him Morton’s Ghost—gives us at the start of this album threatens to do to us the same. This is a work of art about the biggest questions that we could ever possibly ask: why must we be mortal? who are we really? are we constituted by our memories? what does it mean both to live and to die? and how must we exist in this world, and treat each other, knowing that “we’re involved in something irreversible,” that we are given life only to be asked inevitably to sacrifice it, and that existence might legitimately be seen as a long slide into inevitable darkness? Follow this path, seek only to keep remembering, keep shining light on everything, and we’ll all end up mad. Even in the midst of such beauty—and this album is a staggeringly beautiful work of art—these are the stakes: to lose our minds like a hesitant prince. And of all of the things we are about to lose, that would be the most painful.
Sleep is as little understood as death. Philosophically, both are puzzles, breaks in the continuous flow of consciousness that seems to hold the self together as one united thing. We might say that memory, sleep, and death are the three axes around which Offerings unfolds.
Aristotle, in Generation of Animals 5.1 (778b28-33) writes: “[T]he transition from not-being to being is effected through the intermediate state, and sleep would appear to be by its nature a state of this sort, being as it were a borderland between living and not-living; a person who is asleep would appear to be neither completely non-existent nor completely existent….” René Descartes maintained that in dreamless sleep the soul “withdraws” from the body, perhaps to contemplate pure logic, math, geometry, and metaphysics, thus leaving no trace of memory. And John Locke, the great British empiricist who imagined the mind starting off as a blank slate (as does Morton’s Ghost in the song “Empiricist”), rejected the Cartesian view of sleep, maintaining that when we sleep, the mind simply shuts off for a bit completely: our experience showing this to be true. A non-active mind, however, is a problem for personal identity since the self seems to be constituted by memories, by the ability to think “I am the same me that was thinking this thought a moment ago.” Is the self really a continuous whole, then? Is the self what we think the self to be?
Memory, sleep, and death have deep philosophical connections, and thus can stand in for each other artistically as well, with waking and sleeping becoming, metaphorically, birth and death. Offerings begins with the song “Wake,” turning next to “Rorschach,” which makes an appeal to “the river of forgetfulness”—a reference to Lethe, the river in Greek mythology from which the dead must drink upon arriving in Hades thus causing them to forget their earthly lives. Ingested, Lethe’s waters erase memory. But Lethe, it is also said, flows around the cave of Hypnos, the god of sleep, its babbling provoking drowsiness in anyone listening to its gentle current.
The ancient Greek word for “truth” is derived from lethe. It is, in fact, the absence of lethe: aletheia (ἀλήθεια). “Truth” is thus literally a kind of non-forgetting, an a-Lethe, an unconcealedness. But as the Greeks knew, and as Martin Heidegger and Jacques Derrida reminded us two-and-a-half millennia later, “unconcealedness” always still conceals something. In order to shine a light in one corner of a dark room, you must necessarily cast other areas into darkness. To enframe something and put it in the spotlight is necessarily to leave something else outside the frame in the shadows. The force that brings a text to meaning is always at the same time the force that threatens to dismantle it into nonsense. In order to remember, there must be a forgetting; in order to know, there must be an unknowning. The river of forgetfulness is spilling its banks, Morton’s Ghost sings. And we know, then, that we are in safer hands than Hamlet’s father’s, because for this interlocutor aletheia/truth is not merely about remembering but about forgetting as well. Lethe is always only on the way toward veracity: truth necessarily spills it banks.
Though Morton draws from many sources on Offerings, from film to novels to painting, he returns always to the Greeks. Allusions to Greek philosophers, gods, and myth abound. The whole of the conceit of the song-cycle—and Offerings is a consistent whole, a continuous narrative with all of the stops and starts that the narrative of a life demonstrates—is the Platonic idea that before we were born, our souls, that part of us that is eternal and perfect, used to live in a realm populated by things that are eternal and perfect as well. Our souls, that is, were once in the realm of the Forms, hanging out with Triangle, Blue, Two, Justice, and every other universal that finds its origin in the realm of Being rather than the land of becoming. When we are born into a body, Plato argues, we forget. Lethe’s waters wash over us and we struggle to remember all that we knew in the realm of the Forms. In this way, birth is a kind of death. The infant awakes in a new world to start a new life, but such awakening is also like falling asleep—like a Shade entering Hades.
As a result of this complicated process, education is not really an act of writing onto a blank slate but a process of recollection. As we go through life, we don’t so much learn new things as remember what we used to know already. The possibility that this cycle repeats is left open, each incarnation of a soul into flesh being both an awakening and a falling asleep, a birth and a death, a forgetting and a remembering. When, on the first track of the album, Morton’s Ghost tells us that he has been “reborn,” that this is also like a Form being “unborn,” that he is waking into darkness (“benighted”) rather than light, that his life goes “round and round” in an “unbroken loop,” and that he is saying goodbye to his “little memories,” Plato nods in agreement. But as in all things, this is just an old idea circling around again—even for Morton, who seven years earlier, told us that he had “started a new beginning suspiciously like the old one” (“Starting Over [Bad Habits]” from the 2010 album Hunger and Thirst). And indeed, all of this living business is suspicious. As is death. Again.
The pain that Morton’s Ghost recounts is not merely the pain of living, but the pain of living in this particular world today—a world where one is commanded to remember everything, where one is told that s/he is fundamentally alone, where the best hope that thousands of years of philosophical opining has given us is the dreary existential conclusion that life is absurd, death is legitimately terrifying, and there is no meaning to it other than the meanings we make up. For the ancients, it was hard enough to figure anything out and live happily, but after modernity took over Europe—promising us that technology would cure our ills, that we are all merely selfish biological machines at heart, and that what it means to be is to be fundamentally alone—happiness and fulfillment seem ever farther away. Liberalism is the worldview we have inherited. This is the worldview of Descartes, who worries that he might be completely alone in the universe because it is impossible ever to experience another person’s consciousness, so why even believe that they are people? It is the worldview of Thomas Hobbes, Descartes’ contemporary, who proposed that we are born alone into a state of nature where there is a “war of all against all,” getting together only by means of vicarious social contracts, leading lives that are ultimately “solitary, nasty, poor, brutish, and short.” It is the worldview of twenty-first century America. Our worldview. The worldview we have under President Donald Trump. The same fundamental worldview we would still have had under President Hillary Clinton. But, thankfully, there are alternative—true and truly radical alternatives.
Communitarians view the self as constituted by roles and relationships, as finding our very being in our enmeshment with others. We are immediately born into an intricate web of interrelations, communitarians argue, that does not merely support our selves but is our selves. We live in and through one another, even the supposed flesh boundary of the body a false construct of liberalism. Intercorporeity is the norm, and “your pain is my pain” (as Morton’s Ghost realizes in “Beachtowel”). Indeed, the liberal and communitarian views are struggling to claim the protagonist all throughout the album, throughout his life/death. Does he give in to the world’s demand that he think of himself as alone, no time, even, to love another? Or does he embrace an identity that fixes itself only by means of the ever-changing flow of relations and communal entanglement? The Enlightenment, again, tells us that logos (i.e., rationality, reason, logic) will help us answer such questions, but its view of reason is a liberal one: a cold calculation done alone, disinterestedly, like a scientist poking without mercy at a splayed frog until it gives up the ghost, gives up some knowledge. The Greek conception of logos was not originally like that. Logos, for the Greeks, was always instantiated in a community, a polis. For Plato, it emerged dialectically, in conversation, ultimately often ending in aporia rather than certainty. For Aristotle, one always thinks best with friends.
As we move from floodplains, to flood, to reckoning, to whatever comes next, we hold out hope that we can survive this world of liberal solitude and sadness—that we can survive it precisely by realizing, together, that such interpretations were never really true from the start.
Typhoon is a community as much as a band, enacting Morton’s vision but adding to it with a chorus of musical and artistic talents weaving together complicated orchestration with virtuosity. Dave Hall’s haunting guitar is, as always, immediately recognizable. Shannon Steele’s sopranic intonations ring out as the voice of comfort—the soporific, well-grounded, communal sound of hope and reason. Ferrin’s horns and guitar, Tanabe’s grounded bass, Fitch, Gallagher, and Hilton’s steady pulse—the whole of the band singing and playing multiple instruments—this has always been the heart of the collective that is Typhoon, and Offerings is served up to us as something that pushes the idea of a concept album into new territory precisely because of this being-together. The band has never sounded more in synch, more inspired. Recorded in the year of the fiftieth anniversary of the release of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, it is hard not to think that Typhoon has moved beyond the idea of being a meta-band, moved beyond wondering if noise is also music and speech is always already a form of singing, moved beyond trying to tie together songs, and instead has merely accepted that one is always a collective meta-self, everything is music, and life—and art—cannot help but hang together meaningfully in the act of living them. This is an offering, a deep and important work of art we have been given, and we need to listen.
Listening is an active process. To perceive anything at all is to interpret it. We cannot hear noises or sense data. We can only hear…meaning. But we bring our collective history to the listening whenever we lend an ear. What follows below—indeed, all of what has come so far—is what I hear. It is true, I think. But only in the sense that truth is open and infinite, waiting for others to listen along and add their voices to the chorus. This is what I hear, song by song on the album—taking it as an immeasurable gift from Kyle and the band to live in a world with such incredible beauty in it.
As we “WAKE,” we realize that sleep is like an ocean; it comes in waves. But the immanent flood of the amniotic fluid of Lethe is also a first watery baptism into a new kind of existence. We are born into a play, our once-memorized lines suddenly forgot. It is a startling experience leaving one world, slowly forgetting it, and being tossed into another already up and running. Mother brings us food; we soil ourselves; we feel suddenly alone, not even able to control this body and its functions. Being awake is a forgetting. Being born is a forgetting as well. We forget the land of sleep, our dreams, our dream-self. We forget the realm of the Forms, saying, in a foreign tongue, adieu to our memories, even though we are told that we’re not losing anything, but are, instead, gaining something by offering them up. But as we wake from apparent nothingness, we think we can remember a song. If there is really nothing, then from where did that song come? “Asa Nisi Masa” is the phrase that begins this life—chanted here and elsewhere on the album. We know the phrase from Federico Fellini’s 1963 film 8½. It is what Guido is thinking when a clairvoyant correctly reads his mind; it is a memory we see in a flashback to Guido’s life as a child when, instead of falling asleep like the other children, he and another boy stare at the eyes in a painted face trying to get them to move by reciting the phrase. “Asa Nisi Masa.” It is an Italian “Pig Latin” version of the word, “anima”—“A-sa NI-si Ma-sa”—that is, soul. In book III of Aristotle’s De Anima, the human mind is said to be special. This is true, perhaps, only if finding meaning in meaninglessness, embracing absurdity as reasonable, is special.
“RORSCHACH”’s meditation on first being born/waking is also about being alive in the modern age—the so-called information age (which might be better thought of as the age of missing information, as Bill McKibben once wrote). The transmission over the wire is distorted so that we can barely understand. We cannot look away from our screens, nor from the idea that the eye projects reality onto an inner private screen trapped in our singular heads. This modern life has nothing to do with real logos. Enlightenment reason is not the reason for which Socrates gave his life, drinking up the poison at his execution. But now we are left with only the irrationality of pseudo-science, reading the dregs of the hemlock like tea leaves. The violence of rationality makes itself known all around us and we sadly celebrate it, thinking that the splatter of blood is like a work of art that opens itself to our interpretation, a sanguine ink-blot on an otherwise white light(er) life. We know it’s not true, but we cling to the lie. And we go mad.
Still in the dark. We turn to the “EMPIRICIST” to try to figure out who we are, from where we came. The Greek foundations of this thought are at war with the Judeo-Christian notion of our mother being sculpted from Adam’s pulled rib, but dissonance is our inheritance. In ancient Greece, one hundred head of cattle would be sacrificed to the gods at important moments. We are but “a single calf in the hecatomb,” the world telling us we are alone. Occam’s razor having cut away our subjectivity, filleting our personhood as one would a sacrificial bull, we have nothing left to do other than accept the existential dread and dreck of “being and nothingness,” an allusion to Jean-Paul Sartre’s book in which he claims that our existence precedes our essence, that without a creator god we are free to constitute ourselves as anything we want, though this freedom is a kind of hell. We have wrestled with Søren Kierkegaard’s brand of existentialism before (“The Sickness Unto Death” from the album Hunger and Thirst begins with us waking up, living alone), but empirical evidence now suggests that it is Albert Camus, Sartre’s shorter-lived French existentialist contemporary, who makes the most of this senselessness. Camus will deem life fundamentally absurd: the idea that we have souls, anima, an unthinkable thought. We push a rock up a hill for no reason, only to have it roll down again tomorrow. This Sisyphean task is the only point of life: “Asa Nisi Masa.” Still, our infantile hand reaches up, the existential Möbius strip of being and nothingness like a mobile hung above our crib. As the music changes and the song shifts, we imagine an entire life misspent, an entire life not understanding who we are and what it is all about. Being nothing other than a tabula rasa would make us into a sacrificial calf, served up to the world. And so all of life goes by. We imitate others who are alive, because all it means to be something is to imitate that something. We find a mate. We have children. Our children discover us in old age, looking in the mirror like the protagonist in Luigi Pirandello’s One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand, not quite knowing who is there looking back because whoever that is is someone seen and constituted by others. Each birthday passes like the last, but who is it that was born? Who is it that has this being?
In Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon, “ALGERNON” is a mouse who gains greater intelligence following an experimental surgery that Charlie, the mentally-challenged protagonist, also soon undergoes. The novel, which begins with an epithet from Plato’s Republic about the challenges both of leaving and returning to the cave of shadows where there is no Truth, recounts how Charlie and the mouse eventually regress from their genius status back to a state of simplicity (which, we remember, is for Plato the path that we all take when we are born). Charlie’s final wish, made while he can still remember that he used to know things but can no longer remember exactly what those things were, is that flowers be placed on Algernon’s grave. Trying to remember who one was while asleep—or while still a Form in Plato’s realm of Being—is like trying to remember what it was like to understand anything once, to know in general. Being born is like being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, like a dementia in which we forget the truth of what came before, even the truth of love. Now older, we are being examined—apparently by a psychologist, but also by life in general. We pretend to know the answers but then admit that it is all just pretending. Such moments of pain and longing last forever, even if the path of life is short.
The floodplains have set the stage for what is to come, what has already come, what returns. The flood arrives—again.
It is, perhaps, not “UNUSUAL” to realize that truth is immaterial. Language (another translation of logos) fails us after all. There are no “systems,” no institutions, to save us in this liberal world of violent isolation. There is only the waiting—and the horizon of Jean Baudrillard’s “desert of the real” stretching off just out of frame, a simulacra of a better world we might imagine. Perhaps this is what it means to go mad like Hamlet. The music now becomes crowd noises, nothing particularly “sensical” coming from them, no liberal reason emerging. Until the epitaph is sung—with swords and debts and blood. It is like a revolution (number nine), a day in the life that leads directly into the sudden epiphany of “BEACHTOWEL”: the child that we have (or that we are) has been injured, and it is suddenly clear that the liberal view of a monadic, solipsistic self is utterly false. “Your pain is my pain.” A “single harp” empathically ties us together. It is a truth we once knew before being born to this world. “Don’t you remember?” The question keeps repeating. When logos was communal, consanguine? You have cut it out, cut out the way in which we were all together before, before life tricked us into thinking we are all isolated selves. The music changes and changes again. It sounds as if it is several different songs, yet it is all one song, all wrapped up together in a beach towel.
Hamlet’s father’s ghost begins his time with his son by commanding that he listen, and the ghost ends it with the command, “REMEMBER.” We remember. We remember Algernon in the maze, no longer remembering. We remember the force of the world that acts upon us demanding we forget how intertwined we are. And so we forget our enmeshment. It might seem we have dementia—that we are literally “out of our minds”—but the real truth is that we all have it, that society is based on it. It is a collective madness that we cannot see clearly any longer. We are all “ass-naked in the backyard,” but we are the Emperors of our own new clothes, unable to see the madness. We are all feral wolf-children, putting out fires with gasoline, the punishment being the same as the crime as we splice in fugues where they don’t belong. When the self becomes a black hole bending everything back into is singularity, making all of existence just about me, then we are doomed. And at the moment that we wake, there’s a brief instant when we feel the dread wash over us: I am born to die. And in a panic, we hurt each other. This knowledge will kill us all if we let it. We will forget to live before we die. (The female voice comes in with hope: While it is true that we have no stature if measured up against the infinite—while it is not a question of if we’ll die, but of how long it will take—it is also true that infinities are never real. Even black holes leak, bleed out, and die. This life, this other’s pain, this chance to melt together rather than get our pitchforks out—this is real, too. We must embrace that chance.)
A memory continues. Past song lyrics are interwoven. It is something true, something beautiful. A childhood memory. I am attached to my neighbors, to my community, no sense of time. But in the background, John 14:2 is twisted and distorted over the wire, and we believe for a moment that there are many rooms in the devil’s “MANSION.” Perhaps it is true. Perhaps there is all too much living space for us to do wrong.
We have unleashed Nemesis, the Greek goddess of revenge who predates even Zeus. Taking her name from νέμειν, a verb meaning “to give someone what is due,” Nemesis’ main job is to punish humans for their hubris, especially for their arrogance in thinking that they know more than what they know. She will bring the reckoning. She knows nothing about mercy.
Since the time of White Lighter’s “Morton’s Fork,” we have been obsessed with the fact that none of us lives forever. “Let it go, let it go, let it go,” came the refrain of the female voice of reason back then. She returns here, our head under the “COVERINGS,” telling us that we know what we have to do, even if we don’t do it. That we have to let it go. Not only is the battle unwinnable, but it is war we are fighting on false premises. We are not alone and cursed to die. The images we have allowed to frighten ourselves have softer edges at the break of dawn. We are all in this together. “Every part of you,” she assures us, “I feel in me.”
We are still remembering. All the way back to the illness and death of Hunger and Thirst’s “CPR/Claws Pt. II.” We are still remembering. Caught up in the shadows, in the “CHIARSCURO” that makes it so hard to see. We are still remembering. The self we were who wished to save everyone in the family from the supernova in “Morton’s Fork” has come to realize that the thermodynamic heat death of the universe taking everything to absolute zero (at which point time stops still) is inevitable. There is no possibility of keeping anyone safe. Even the laws of entropy demand: we are all involved in something irreversible. We are afraid. One way or the other, the suffering always goes away. We’ll be buried. But she is right. We realize that there will be part of us buried in those we love, part of us, then, still impossibly living by means of their memories, their living. It is the ultimate communitarian realization. But it is a realization that does not last.
The shadows grow “DARKER.” It is time to be judged. We tried to be good, to love our neighbors and live in the light. We are, after all, the same man who once announced in “The Honest Truth” (from the band’s 2011 EP, A New Kind of House) that we are true even if we are not always honest, and that we should be kind to all of our neighbors. But we failed to take our own advice then. That chorus of voices warned us years ago that we had let the devil into our home. But now it turns out that the devil’s mansion has many rooms, and we might have been living in his home all along. And so, frightened as we are, we beg for help as we face the end. As in “Claws Pt. II” we want to live and don’t want to live: something’s got to give. The water rises again. Listen. We try hard to follow the sound: being “self-contained” was a lie all along. The greatest lie. The one Nemesis punishes us for believing without guilt or hesitation.
Kurt Vonnegut’s 1961 short story, “Harrison Bergeron,” imagines a dystopian reality where people are forced to be the same: the strong carry around weights to hold them down, the beautiful wear masks to hide their features, the intelligent have radios implanted in their ears to distract them and keep them from thinking clearly. “BERGERON” rebels—unsuccessfully. The fatal flaw in the overall story, however, is that the government has tried to make everyone the same rather than make everyone equal. Equality is always just and true, but it thrives on difference; it never suppresses it. At this point in the narrative of Offerings, facing the wrath of Nemesis, we imagine we, too, could be a rebel—a rebel against our own modern world. The female voice comes in again, suggesting that we accept that life is finite but that being good is an intersubjective action that is still worthwhile. It’s not about trying to “be somebody,” but just to do something good here and now. The former is a liberal ideal, the latter properly communitarian. Perhaps we cannot fight, but even if we do, are we a rebel for the right cause?
“ARIADNE” was the daughter of Minos, the king who controlled the labyrinth, home of the Minotaur. When Theseus was forced into the labyrinth, Ariadne aided him by giving him a sword and a ball of string to unwind and find his way out. She is the one to turn to when there are a million doorways and we have lost our way. But regrettably, in the final moments of the reckoning, we recede once more into the sadness of our existential fears: no time to love someone else, no need to know one’s neighbors, no reason to think of one’s self as anything other than a sacrificial offering. Everyone is a victim while at the same time being a perpetrator: hostages to time, terrorist aggressors against each other. Other people are no longer constitutive of the self, but are back to being, at best, an audience for me or, at a Cartesian worst, a mere hallucination. No chance of being buried in the community, in those we love, as we had hoped earlier. Instead, we fear being buried in the floodplains—and being promptly forgot. This is the dream of being lost, one final and tragic nightmare before death, no king’s daughter to lead any of us out. “Asa Nisi Masa”—again. We affirm our martyrdom, though pray it needn’t be so.
The ultimate absurdity follows: life after life. The afterparty.
The alarm clock rang in Lennon and McCartney’s “A Day in the Life,” and we “woke up” and “fell out of bed.” Now, the offering concludes with a postmodern “SLEEP” that ends our final day in the life—and ends the album of Offerings. As the guitar chords progress, soothing us while carrying us away, a major chord to a seventh, the acoustic strumming as percussive as it is melodic, the voice sweeter and yet sadder than it has ever been, we prepare to return to the abyss. It is true that life is full of sorrow and grief as well as joy and happiness. It is a mixed bag. It is as surreal as a Fellini film. And forgetting seems to be an act that destroys a world. But as the sleep of death arrives, we finally once and for all accept that we are not alone, even if we fear what comes next and beg to be held, to be held down to earth, to be held alive. If only the love of others could hold us down, keep us in place, and anchor us to this world so that we could never float away. If only we never had to sleep, to die, to be less than whole. So long. Adieu, adieu, but don’t so much remember me as agree to meet me—some other time. And then, as the falling asleep continues, as the song progresses, it does not remain the same. And the story does not conclude. Sliding past Lethe’s shores, fragments of past songs reappear and are forgot, the sounds of the living world, of the musical moments that first pulled us into wakefulness, now begin to calm us and take us away. They drone. They become more than mere sound. They repeat. They wash over us. We walk down a long hallway, open the door, and…join the party. It is a surprise party—the only sort of party it could ever have been. A party already in progress. An after-party for an after-life that is out of time and out of place. The old Typhoon sing-along moment that we fans have come to love over the years finally appears on the album as the community embraces us. And we learn how welcoming it will be to shed our selves and join everyone else in a place where talking, laughing, and even just being together is a form of music—the sort of music that John Cage perhaps told us about years before he, too, joined the river, the sort of music that transcends anything that a philosopher can elucidate further with a flurry of unsung words. From Plato to Sartre, we built our ivory towers, and we counted up all of our victories, but our strongest moments came when we were weakest, when we were together, when we didn’t look for reason to figure it all out coldly and solipsistically, but instead found a new way to be whole. And this is the end, this is the end, this is the way the world ends. Every album commands, Listen. Every life commands, Live. Every death commands….
If Sisyphus had to push the finest indie rock up a hill each night, it would surely sound something like the offerings of Typhoon—mournful, knowing, yet unswervingly looking for hope even if unsure we deserve it. Perhaps the saddest thing about dying is leaving a world with such incredible—incredibly true and incredibly beautiful—works of art in it as Offerings. We are forever caught up in the absurdity of an existence that demands suffering and loss, but eternity may well yet smile on us all at the afterparty, after the long walk, after the tellings and retellings, after we realize that we walk together, after that which animates us turns from Asa Nisi Masa to Stillsa Nesssi. We should all be so lucky as to wake up—or fall asleep—and find Typhoon there already, pushing the rock and testing the flood-waters before us.
And it is thus, with Camus, that we must imagine Morton’s Ghost happy.