Lately I’ve been having the strangest of sleep. I’ve Been Sleeping and Not Knowing I’m Asleep. Instead of waking up with no memory of the night, or of my dreams, I feel as if I have been conscious throughout the night. Not asleep. Last night I remember wondering if I should go and eat some cookies to help me sleep better. I was annoyed that I was conscious but, wondered if in fact I was dreaming that I was lying in my bed, dreaming that I was awake.
The odd thing about lying half awake, half in a dream is how powerless you feel. I’ve tried moving my body, getting up from a dream I was conscious of being in several times. Especially those intense dreams you don’t want to be in. I had one dream not long ago about being in a classroom. I remember that the classroom was in a void of some kind, a place that I couldn’t escape from but, in the dream I was compelled to complete an assignment that would free me from the classroom. It was like being in the Limbo of Inception.
The only difference was that this wasn’t a world I could control. Try as I may I was too deep. I knew I was in the dream, a dream I didn’t chose to be in. I struggled with my body, forcing it to shift up and nothing. I woke the next morning with a vivid recollection of my dream and the experience of being in it.
Usually at night I spend some time reading. I like reading without the lights on. I have a reading light attached to my book. Or I use a Kindle Paperwhite. It makes me feel as if the room has gone away. It’s like a little cove of private time in an otherwise busy day. I’ve also been reading some heavy books.
I just about finished ‘The Critique of Everyday Life’ by Lefebvre. A book high in implicit and nuanced ideas about life and how a Marxist interpretation would make us all better connected with our lives (and dense in parts.) He’s a writer with an agenda, not a reporter. I’ve also been reading a book of articles on The Binding Problem in Cognitive Neuroscience. As I read I puff away on an electric cigarette. Maybe it’s those that keep me awake. I’ve also had a lot on my mind.
Whatever it is it’s the strangest thing. Half in this world half in another. But, last night I felt as if it it were this world only that I was in. Albeit a foggy version of it. The one difference was that I couldn’t see anything. All there was were thoughts. Clear thoughts, as vivid as perceptions (they were in some sense perceptions of thoughts.) But, they were too present, too immediately there to be perceptions of themselves.
When I woke up this morning I knew I was awake. I knew I’d been asleep. The milk in the fridge was unopened. The cookies uneaten. Just the dog ready to pee. My wife is out of the country and missing her was my first thought for the day.
Sleep and dreaming are a mysterious part of our life. In some sense we relegate the world of sleep to the absurd. A nether region of our experience, a place we can look at with fancy. The surrealists certainly treated that fancy as a reality unto itself. A place of symbols.
But, that’s stupid. Sleep isn’t some other place or part of us. We contain our sleep and our dreams in our bodies. We all sleep and we’ve been doing it everyday for a lot longer than we’ve been humans. We even make small talk of it at work.
However, despite some theories, both cognitive, neurological (I would reference an article in The Cognitive Neuroscience 1995 edition that shows research correlating the type and intensity of imagery in sleep with imagery in waking states) and psychodynamic there’s a not a lot that really makes plain how it is that sleep is part of our lives.
Sleep will never be mainstream. That much is certain. What would it be like to think of sleep as it were as much a part of our day as doing the dishes or walking the dog?