Monday 15 April 2013

Our little life is rounded with a sleep


There are many benefits from sleep - it is a biological necessity, many problems can be caused by lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep - but for a Christian it is necessary to understand the spiritual or 'existential' role of sleep because each Man's life is built-around sleep.


When Shakespeare wrote the above quotation - from The Tempest - he meant that our whole life was a little thing and then we died; but often a whole life feels like a big thing, an incomprehensibly and unmanageably big thing.

So, our whole life is divided into little lives of days - and each day is separated by sleep; which is a kind of little death, in the sense of bringing a pause to conscious endeavor, striving, doing, planning.


Thus each day we are active, then inactive; extraverted then intraverted; each day we start and we finish.

(It might have been otherwise; but this is how it is.)

Each morning there is expectation, hope or dread; then there is doing and struggling and happiness and sadness, pleasures and pains; and at the end of the day, as sleep approaches, there is of necessity a coming to terms with that day, and a surrender of will, and an enforced helplessness as we are plunged into unconscious passivity - a requirement for trust that sleep is not the end but a transition between days.


So, an average human life is both long and short - it is a single archway, and it is cyclical and recurrent - sleep makes our lives into a sequence of reincarnations as the soul feels that it leaves the body then re-enters the body.


This is not a matter of dreams remembered. Sleep does its work whether we dream or not, whether we remember our dreams or not.

Awakeness is experienced as a explicit state, by contrast sleep is implicit; we know what sleep does from indirect evidence, from the difference it has made.

What this difference from having slept actually is, is seldom known by direct introspection but is a matter for inference, for guessing, for trial and test perhaps.   


We plunge into sleep, we emerge from sleep changed; we find ourselves awake and starting a new day - we feel different from the way we were yesternight. Something has happened, some things have happened - whatever they are is now a matter of experience.

(Sleep is experience.)

And this is life - it is serial and it is cyclical; each diurnal cycle does not return us to the beginning but to a somewhat different point; each day is a unit and a 'fresh start', but not a discrete unit since we carry our-selves over from the day before.

And yet that self to which we return on wakening has been changed somewhat.

And this is life.



Adam G. said...

Sleep and awaking is a little reset button. I've long thought that its an aid to the sinner in that it partially disrupts the sinful pattern of his life and allows him a partial fresh start, and a challenge to the Christian for the same reason.

I think its no coincidence that getting into dissolute habits and promiscuous lifestyles often involves irregular and abnormal sleep habits too.

As a side note, you may be interested in knowing that there is a Mormon scripture that counsels rising early and retiring early:

Bruce Charlton said...

@ AG - That's me to a T! Getting sleepy by 21.30, awake and wanting to get going at 04.30...