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Interpretation of “Seas and fierce rivers” by Memphis (Μ3ΜΦ1Σ)

I had great difficulty picking today’s entry because I like every single one of Memphis’ songs. Memphis (stylised as “Μ3ΜΦ1Σ”) is an Greek indie rock/metal band that I adore. I have covered them before in this section of my website where I provide philosophical commentary (“interpretations”) on works of art:

The song I comment on here is Seas and fierce rivers (Πέλαγα και άγριοι ποταμοί): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjgDq6bb-ek (also check their bandcamp page for their entire discography: https://m3mf1s.bandcamp.com/music).

Below are the lyrics, my translation of them, and some philosophical musings of mine.

Πέλαγα και άγριοι ποταμοί

Όσες φορές είμαι ό,τι δείχνω
σχεδόν ποτέ δεν παίρνω ό,τι δίνω
Χαμογελάω και παραδίνομαι

Τί κυνηγάω πλέον δεν ξέρω
ούτε με νοιάζει αν τα καταφέρω
Χαμογελάω και παραφέρομαι

Φαιά ουσία τζάμπα ξοδεύω
χωρίς σκοπό έρχομαι-φεύγω
Χαμογελάω και ονειρεύομαι

Σαν την σκιά πίσω σου τρέχω
μου το χες πει πως δεν θα σε έχω
Χαμογελάω και καταστρέφομαι

Πέλαγα και άγριοι ποταμοί πάλι ξεχύνονται μαζί
πάλι ξεχύνονται μαζί απ’των ματιών σου την πηγή

Μα από την άρνηση που ζω
ήθελα μόνο, μόνο να σου πω
Ήθελα μόνο να σου πω
δεν βρήκα τρόπο για να σ’αγαπώ.
Seas and fierce rivers

Whenever I am what I show
I seldom receive what I offer
I smile and surrender

I no longer know what I'm chasing
nor do I care if I will make it
I smile and lose control

I waste vital energy
without purpose I come-go
I smile and dream

Like a shadow I run behind you
You told me I would not have you
I smile and am ruined

Seas and fierce rivers flow together again
again they flow from your eyes' fountain

But in the denial I live
I just wanted, just to tell you
I just wanted to tell you
I found no way to love you

My original impression of the lyrics—and the one I maintained until a few minutes ago—is that the poetic “I” is addressing another person, probably an elusive romantic partner. Though I have changed my mind, as that would not explain why the titular seas and rivers flow from the eyes of the poetic second person. This “you” figure has made it explicit that they are unavailable, which makes me think that they would not be devastated by the news. Whereas the first person is likely to burst into tears of disappointment.

This paradox leads me to the conclusion that the lyrics are a monologue. This is a person who is in or around a depressive state of mind. Maybe they showed love but never got any. Their continuous disappointments made them lose sense of purpose and direction. They now cling on to lost causes and have unrealistic ambitions. The poetic “I” has found no way to express self-love. Their denial consists in trying to distract their self from the grief in their life; from the mismatch between their wants and their actuality.

The flowing tears are those of the same person. There is no-one else involved. Our protagonist is lost in a world they feel alien towards; forever an outsider; ever the misfit.

Unlike the tales elders regale us with when we are children, life is not filled with happiness. Yes, it would be wonderful to kiss a frog and get a handsome prince in return. But this is not how things work.

There are numerous factors outside our control which prevent us from having anything akin to a fairytale life. We can always hope for the best, though we must recognise that sometimes we may not get anything noteworthy.

We are in denial when we think we are entitled to happiness or, worse, to the company of others. We conflate the wish we have for fulfilment with the specifics of the world, thus discounting the possibility of being unfulfilled, lonely, and the like. The poetic “I” has no self-love due to this denial, which exacerbates the problem. It is a vicious cycle.

This reminds me of the story of a lad who was walking back home on a rainy night. A car stopped and asked the boy to hop in. In the back seat was a lass. In front were her parents. The lad met the girl earlier: both were waiting for the same bus; the bus that apparently had a mechanical problem and never arrived. The lass approached the boy for chit-chat, presumably out of boredom. It is understandable, given the delay:

  • We can take you home.
  • Thank you!
  • Where do you live?
  • Just a couple of blocks down this road.
  • Write down my phone in case you miss another bus.
  • Thanks! I have no phone.

The lad’s house was not near the specified location. It was at the other side of town. He also did have a phone…

Denial is a state of mind that makes a person behave awkwardly. The poetic “I” is fearful. They are unsettled, for they doubt their very ability to achieve anything. “If nothing works, then I am the problem”, says the protagonist. Such is a rationalisation that ruins a person.

When we assign too much value to the object of our desire, we develop tunnel vision. We lose our sense of perspective, as we gauge our worth solely on the basis of our performance in satisfying this desire. In the process, we remain oblivious to the fact that we are not entitled to anything. We labour under the falsehood that “stuff” should be ours, hence the aforementioned rationalisation when this eventuality does not come about. We think we are a failure of a human being; defective by design; loathsome and worthless.

Recognise that some things are not meant to be. You will finally be relaxed about it. And if you ever find yourself in the lad’s stead, you will then specify the location of your residence and write down the phone number.