I am startled to realize that I think sleep is really weird. Like most of those kindly described as “elders” I have a nonmonogamous relationship to sleep: we get together in fits and starts. The impending election is finally no longer impending, so my sleep experience may improve, but I wouldn’t bet on it. On my best nights I wake up for a while around three and then sleep all the way to six. A couple of nights ago I hit the pillow about eleven, slept deeply for a while and thought I’d made it to three. It was twelve-thirty.
But for quite a while now when I prepare to embark upon sleep I realize, this is really weird. Humans putter or stumble or roar through their day and then everybody keels over and conks out. What’s that about? I crawl under the covers and get my pillow just right and sidle sideways to get some body contact, and then we both hope to black out for a long time. Gone. Blotto. Every night.
If I succeed, then the sideshow starts. In this last month I have been challenged to get through an amazing number of assignments. They have usually involved trying to organize a large number of diverse people going in quantum directions, and the exhausting thing is that sometimes I seem to be doing all right for a while. But when I wake up I’m all worn out.
I’m not afraid of death, I like to imagine it as some sort of release from the work list. But if sleep is a preview, I’m not sure I’m looking forward to the movie. And I keep coming back to this bizarre thing of people spending a third of their lives, if they’re lucky, being blacked out. Imagine a being from elsewhere in the multiverse landing in the middle of the night and finding that everyone has passed out. “What happened here?”
Native Americans thought the white man was nuts. How could anybody get through life without dream wisdom? Maybe we’re not thinking about it right. What if sleep were a ticket to imagining all the possibilities we hadn’t chosen? And what if that could enrich our sense of choice? There are some scientific speculations that dreams are the psychic equivalent of flushing the toilet, but I don’t quite warm to that idea. I often get bizarre messages in my dreams that turn out to be pretty intriguing and sometimes tell me what I didn’t realize I felt.
So maybe sleep isn’t really weird. Maybe it’s a mandatory assignment, a necessary confrontation, an opportunity to shake hands with the multiverse. That’s interesting. I wonder where I’ll go tonight.