Midnight Radio

Hymns for the End of the World

Slow-motion strings and liturgical drones from Athens, Greece. Mohammad‘s latest album reaches towards the sublime in its strictest sense: wonder coupled with dread, the jittery thrill of the dark and unknown. Available as a digital download and triple 10″ vinyl from Antifrost.

Autobiography

Guilt and Grace

On January 5 I walked along the sea in Crete and remembered my father who died on this day last year. The things I should have done, the desire to rewrite the past. But why punish myself with guilt? A line from Bergman’s The Seventh Seal nattered at my thoughts: “I often wonder why people torment themselves as soon as they can.” I ran my hands along the stone wall of an ancient fortress tormenting myself for everything left unsaid and undone. Perhaps this self-punishment was an echo of the blood sacrifices of the past, a modern variation on the ritual of suttee or the tribes who chopped off their fingers to illustrate their grief for the ones they’ve lost, to relieve their guilt for continuing to live.

As I walked along the sea of a strange country, I recalled the day-to-day details of my last year with my father. Our morning drives to physical therapy, his constant tidying of our tiny pantry shelf. The comfortable rhythm of our conversations and silences, our routines and quiet complaints. We built a little life together, two men living in small clinical rooms, waiting for a lung. Looking up at the clear winter sky, I realized my parents would kick my ass if they saw me brooding like this—and I was surprised to find that I was still having a conversation with them. I walked on, feeling less alone, and I found a small moment of grace at the end of a pier in the Aegean sea.

Reading List

The Woman in the Dunes

Published in 1962, Kōbō Abe’s The Woman in the Dunes is pegged to a single bizarre image: a man trapped in a sand pit with a mysterious woman. Their survival depends upon shoveling the accumulating sand each night, a metaphor for the labor of existence which the man alternately resists and accepts. Does shoveling an endless pit of sand make him any less free than his former life of paperwork, obligations, and bills?

He meditates on the reasons the mind craves routine: “It goes on, terrifyingly repetitive. One could not do without repetition in life, like the beating of the heart, but it was also true that the beating of the heart was not all there was to life.” Yet what else is there? This question becomes more difficult to answer as the man contemplates the woman’s resignation to this strange life. Shoveling gives her existence as much meaning as any other activity might. Meanwhile, villagers peer into the pit to ensure his compliance. “More than iron doors, more than walls,” Abe writes, “it is the tiny peephole that really makes the prisoner feel locked in.”

In the vein of Camus’s stranger, Abe analyzes human behavior with the detachment of a scientist observing an insect: “Repetition of the same patterns, they say, provides an effective form of protective coloring.” Yet routine offers no shelter from spiritual loneliness, and his description of its effects reads like an epitaph for the digital age: “Loneliness was an unsatisfied thirst for illusion. And so one bit one’s nails, unable to find contentment in the simple beating of one’s heart…one smoked, unable to be satisfied with the rhythm of one’s brain…one had the shakes, unable to find satisfaction in sex alone.” Although an extension of Camus and Kafka’s absurdism, the surreal society formed by Abe’s dunes transforms this philosophy into myth. This story has seeped into my dreams, grinding at my thoughts like sand in the teeth.