Before each of us is set two lives, one of which must be chosen. In The Exitus and Reditus of Andrew Darkstar Parrish, Andrew Darkstar is a modern day Hero setting forth to seize his place in the world. The problem? He doesn’t know quite what that place is. The choice is inevitable, whether we know the answer or not, we all live and we all die. As Darkstar is advised, “Just pick a life and die.” We will all be taken down by something eventually, whether by old age, an overdose of heroin, eating too much ice cream, heartbreak, or baptism. We might all lament along with Darkstar, “Death purchased property / in my arteries.” But in spite of our sorrow, we have one, unique chance to choose our end – turn to ashes in the flame of our passions, or enter the crucible as a willing, sacrificial victim? The former pulls us apart, the latter puts us back together.
To find a life, one must first set out. The exitus sends Darkstar forth like a prodigal. The siren of drugs, comfort, and the chance to seize a certain sort of existence beckons. The world seems bent to his will, but soon enough the mask slips and he is found “freaking out in the bathroom” and pining over lost love. If the prodigal remains in a foreign land wallowing in pig-slop, he will never return home again and his journey is left incomplete. Life does not flow in only one direction from beginning to end, the exitus only finds its meaning in the reditus, the return.
The reditus is exquisite suffering, if Darkstar’s soul is shipwrecked as he tries to make his way home, it is not because his life has been ruined by his passions but, rather, he is ruined by the divine. The loss he eventually makes peace with is the agony of love, such is a life made whole through the sufferings of the Cross. This ruined life really isn’t that big a loss, and Darkstar is reminded that being successful is actually fairly simple,
Have you eaten lunch yet?
I’ll love you till you die.
I don’t care if you don’t find
this thing they call a life.
Loves overlooks all. It is its own success. Although our humanity is found in the self-gift of love and we all kind of know that intuitively, it doesn’t make it any easier to actually love, and ultimately the answer is not found within the abilities of any human being. The only way to return home is to die the right sort of death, the death of the Cross, the spiritual demise of the Dark Night, the drowning waters of the Jordan, and so be able to hope,
Death, her hottest heart,
draws me down to deepest dark
melting all my disparate parts into one.
Jesus, oh Jesus, Jefferson Valley’s full of bones.
Jesus, oh Jesus, won’t you make what’s broken whole?
Even in death, we are not alone.
This album is dense, both musically and lyrically (Darkstar is accused of talking too much, and he is vocalized by Marc Barnes of Bad Catholic who has a philosophy background), but you can tell everyone is having fun. Dear Other are endearingly naïve, a refreshing change of pace from the typical, irony drenched hipster fare that is ascendant in music today. They bring tons of energy and eclecticism and a listener can spend many an interesting afternoon trying to identify the influences and references bubbling through. If you are the kind of person who enjoys obsessing over The Wasteland, this album is for you. The attention to detail even extends to the beautiful visual artwork by Joan Becker (a great reason to purchase the physical album). What we have here is not a band that wrote some random songs and thought it would be cool to rock hard at the local club, but a coherent vision from start to finish. Everything hangs together from the music to the lyrics to the visual art. Dear Other has something to say.
Over the years, Dappled Things has discussed the state of “Catholic Art” and how to encourage a vibrant artistic culture. This album, my friends, is authentically modern and yet fully Catholic in a way that isn’t preachy or doctrinaire, just the sort of honest, culturally relevant work we want to encourage. Dear Other met in the summer of 2015 in Steubenville and this is their debut album, I hope they find an audience for their music and are able to continue creating thought-provoking work.
To me, the work of Cardinal Ratzinger is our touchstone for understanding what is going on with Andrew Darkstar, so much so that the band even toyed with the idea of having a Ratzinger-Buddha carved to sit on the shelf and oversee the proceedings. This is theology come to life, theology with calluses on its hands.
Ratzinger writes in The Spirit of the Liturgy about the journey of life,
Its image is not of an upward flying arrow, but a kind of cross-shaped movement, the two essential directions of which can be called exitus and reditus, departure and return…the circle is seen as the great movement of the cosmos… the many small circles of the lives of individuals are inscribed within the one circle of history as it moves from exitus to reditus. The small circles carry within themselves the great rhythm of the whole, give it concrete forms that are ever new, and so provide it with the force of its movement… In these circles, the mystery of beginning is repeated again and again, but they are also the scene of the end of time, of a final collapse, which may in its own way prepare the ground for a new beginning.
And so, along with Darkstar, we hurtle towards our demise. Happily, we have some good tunes to listen to on the way.