Music and Philosophy and Psychology18 Dec 2010 11:56 am

The name of my first band was Ekstasis and while I was aware of some of the reasons I chose that rather exotic name for a rock band, many other reasons have been realized through the years. While I was trying to make an artistic and personal point by the name, in many ways Ekstasis has become a symbol of a lot of my life’s purpose. In some ways the concept of Ekstasis has been an underlying thread of my life adventure.

Way back in the early 70’s I was a precocious lad who like most adolescents felt a little out of synch with society and my peers. The bulk of my early years I was relatively intelligent and academically lazy person who favored sports, socializing, and activity over books and reading. Though a straight A student through all of elementary school and most of high school years I rarely, if ever, read my text books. My natural gifts with numbers and my ability to maximize class lecture time allowed me to succeed in classes and tests with ease.

Yet, late in my high school years my rebellious ways led me, with the help of my older brother, to take delight in philosophical thought. By senior year, when not engaged in sports or conversation, I spent the bulk of my time reading phenomenology, comparative religions, psychology, structuralism, mythology, cultural anthropology and the like. I seldom read any fiction and most of that was either negative utopias or existential philosophical literature.

Due to a lack of constant sexual relationships and an excess of mundane conversation I began to feel alone and misunderstood. In the realm of physical activity and sport I continued to feel properly stimulated and rewarded. Yet, when it came to interpersonal relationships I felt deprived and somewhat stagnant.

During the last year of high school I began to write essays and poems which were an expression of my desire and discontent while at the same time a plea to my contemporaries to live life more passionately. I had friends from a variety of artistic and philosophical attitudes and did greatly enjoy dialoguing with them. Yet, in the long run I felt many of our conflicts and disagreements were petty and were a sign of intellectual distance and not really grounded in how we felt and experienced life.

In had noticed that many of the intellectual conflicts I had with females disappeared the more physical our relationship became. It seemed that the more they really felt and experienced me the more they understood what I was really saying. Likewise I found camaraderie much easier on the basketball court than through any abstract discussion regarding sport or any specific game plan.

At was at this time that I began to have the courage to sing at parties. A friend of mine remarked that my voice was more expressive and powerful than most but my sense of pitch was woeful.

He gave me a guitar and told me that playing and singing would probably solve the pitch problem. Within months I was writing songs on a regular basis.When I was in my 20’s I wrote over 20 songs a year and even now in my 50’s I still manage to write between 10 and 12 a year.

During this time period I was reading about the thoughts of Socrates and Plato in the context of the birth of rational thought. This is where I stumbled across the difference between the cults of Apollo and Dionysus. In simplest terms the cults of Apollo revered the rise of rational thought with emphasis being placed on perfection, purity, the sublime, absolutes, and the Platonic ideals. The Dionysiac cults were very visceral and whose goals were more pagan and cathartic, where ecstasy and a sense of unity was the goal.

The texts I was reading talked of a ceremony called Ekstasis where the goal was to get beyond oneself, to alter the static and forge a union with the other. In these states all divisions between people’s vanished and they were organically and ecstatically united with each other.

What I particularly found fascinating with the description of Ekstasis was how the goal of getting beyond oneself and ecstatically merging with others was achieved. The cult was known for its fusing of many different artistic elements, there was poetic performance, percussive and rhythmic dance, along with a crescendo of music and even the performance of a play. This unrelenting sensorial and mental barrage of stimuli allowed the participants to go into a semi-trance state and merge in a world with no demarcation between body and mind, or the self and the other.

In my writing I had begun the skeleton of what was to become my philosophy of intimacy (you can read Exploring Intimacy in the words section of this site), in which I see intimacy as an inherent basic human drive. In this drive we are always oriented to become closer to and strive to merge with not only others, but knowledge, our self, music, nature or whatever else attracts our attention and interest.

The ceremony of Ekstasis spoke to the very goal of my music. I wasn’t just trying to entertain through my music, but to transform my audience into experiencing the very pulsing of visceral life. The goal of my music was to generate a merging of performers and audience into an ecstatic experience celebrating the wonder of life and our drive towards human intimacy and deep connection.

Where I often found myself feeling misunderstood in intellectual abstract conversation I felt that the same ideas presented in lyric and accompanied by the emotion of voice and instrumentation better succeeded at accomplishing deep expression and intimacy. Petty debates over terms and syntax were erased by the fullness and rawness of a musical/theatrical celebration of life.

On stage I wasn’t just heard I was experienced. In order to effectively accomplish this task I began to refine my presentation by taking jazz dance, ballet and mime. Even though I felt good about my music and the energy and ambiance created by the band, I do feel the exoticness of the band was often difficult for a club environment.

In the seventies the orgiastic music dominated by pounding rhythm seldom contained any intelligence, and songs with thoughtful lyrics with aspirations of social change fell into either the folk or high brow camp. Most people who went to the bars and local clubs were into getting drunk, getting laid, dancing or being engulfed by a wall of sound. While some people enjoyed the power and theater of my music few appreciated or even heard the lyrics. Those who were into thoughtful and poetic words were often turned off by the power and rawness of the music.

I have often referred to my music as art posing as music, and I realized that most local clubs were meat markets where people went to be entertained and not to be transformed. Though we had some good nights, the band never succeeded at creating the orgiastic environment of my dreams.

I probably would have had more success if I stayed more loyal to the corybantic nature of the Dionysus Ekstasis. There were plenty of metal bands whose driving rhythms did accomplish a form of hypertensive ecstasy. The theatrical element was difficult to pull off in small clubs and was better suited for larger venues which some of my performing idols such as Bowie, The Tubes, Jethro Tull, Peter Gabriel and Roxy Music were able to successfully integrate into their music.

Yet, what I hoped to accomplish was both the Apollo and Dionysus aspect in a single format. Dionysus without Apollo can become chaotic and blind ecstasy. It can quickly become pure escapism or potentially violent chaos. I wanted a balance of forces.

I felt that intelligence without the body can become empty and arrogant and that ecstasy without thought can become destructive and irresponsible. When I sang on stage I thought of myself as Apollo performing at a Dionysiac Ekstasis.

In my life I worried of becoming too self-absorbed and just living in my head. I saw the sciences as becoming too absorbed in being objective and divorcing themselves from the real world. In fact I perceived science often treating the planet, animals, and even others as just objects to be studied and manipulated for abstract principles and logical ideals.

Likewise I saw religion and spiritualism avoiding real lived reality by finding refuge in the eternal or the universe. Even though Science and Spiritualism posed themselves as opposites I saw them as two horns of the same animal. In both cases real life was objectified and transcended. Science and spiritualism had absolutes and eternal Truths, which portrayed life as an illusion and unworthy of our respect. Science has mind, and spiritualism has spirit and both have a tendency to devalue and sometimes even demonize the very body which makes experience (life) possible.

In the objectified scientific and transcendent spiritual worlds terms such as mind, spirit, god, thought, intuition, the absolute, supreme being, logic, truth, consciousness and Platonic Ideals are all refined and superior to the body and/or have separate existences that transcend of will outlive the body. For me, then and now, life is a wondrous process whereby all my perceptions and experiences are housed and made possible by my having a body.

My body, the world and my consciousness are all aspects of my experience. None are expendable or inessential. The world is not separate from me, and is not fully outside of me. There is no clear demarcation of where the world ends and my body begins and where my body ends and my consciousness begins. At every moment I live because I breathe, and at every moment I’m breathing in the world which sustains me and creates the experiences which create my sense of self and my personal history. When I exhale I give life to plants and trees just as my perceptions have me sense the aliveness of others and nature.

These are the kind of observations, perceptions and thoughts which make Ekstasis possible. At every moment I dance with life, I suck in its essence as it awaits mine. The gaze of others, birds and animals prevent me from feeling alone and keep me sane.

What need do I have to transcend or overcome? If you ask me to choose between human experience or perfection, I choose the ecstasy of the human life world.

How about you?

Here are some lyrics that pose the interactive beauty of a sensorial life that “makes sense” rather than seeks Truth or Absolute Essences. You can hear this song on the Go! CD in the music section (tab).

The World Touches Me

What I do see is more than I see everyday
What I do feel is more than I sense
Sometimes the world touches me
Keeps me company while I think

I shoot out thoughts like a Tommy gun
Words pour out in rapid runs
Painting the world that is me
Making the world I am to be

Wonder fills my joy
Laughter seasons the stew I’m steeping
Every day is a feast
So much to taste of which comforts and awakens
Sometimes the world touches me
Talks to me while I think

Sharing all our days
Gives my life dimension widens my perception
Listening to the rain
The rhythm is dreamy soothes like honey

Every breath I take
Is filled with wonder new world to uncover (discover)
Everything takes shape
Random seeks order when the world touches me

Jim Guido

3 Responses to “Ekstasis”

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  3. on 08 Feb 2011 at 1:18 pm michael eric

    very interesting and deep!enjoted the read.great songs too on the “I ROCK THEREFORE I AM”!

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