October 4, 2016

CULTURALLY SHOOK | We Don’t Sleep Anymore

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Photo Courtesy of Chloé Poizat

I want to dissociate. Split myself into two bodies, break myself apart into two corporal entities. It would be a twisted ode to nuclear fission, except instead of dividing the nucleus of an atom I would just be dividing myself. Just imagine! I could exist in two places at once, think two thoughts at once, do two things at once. My autonomy would double, like two twin Siamese cats. If my will was free before I embarked upon this fragmentation of myself, after this fragmentation it could reach new, fuzzily orgastic levels of liberation.

One of my bodies could take on a robotic character, attaining heights of mechanistic productivity and self-sufficiency that my feeble former human self never could have dreamed of. This new self would never feel inclined to submit to the mortal need for sleep. And my other body could sleep and sleep and sleep, float away on a queen-sized goose-down feather pillow into the heavens where it could detach and become pure, dreamful, warmly joyous quintessence.

You are confused, reader. Bewildered, even. I have shocked you. That is okay. Blame these nonsensical musings on the irrational, caffeinated mind of a girl deprived of sleep. In writing this article, I am only pondering the concept that holds me captive.

Not only do I ponder this concept, however: I also research it. Call it Stockholm syndrome, call it whatever you want. I am in awe of my captor, this elusive stranger named sleep deprivation. Read onwards to uncover what I have learned about him.  

I have learned that, according to Buddhism, too little sleep significantly impairs psychological health. Functioning on this little sleep, I wonder: how close am I to a psychological breakdown—how close am I to becoming the reincarnation of Nietzsche’s madman, the one who ran in the markets screaming that God was dead? I do not want to believe this is who I will become. The last thing I want to do is run through a marketplace yelling such absurdities. I dislike the concept of running and crowded marketplaces are not the ideal setting for a girl with such vaguely agoraphobic tendencies as I.

Yet sleep deprivation does more than push me to the brink of psychological breakdown—it appears that it troubles me even further. Apparently, through the philosophy of Advaita Vedānta, ancient Hindus coined the term turiya, meaning “pure consciousness”. At this higher level of consciousness, one experiences both dreaming and deep sleep. One’s true self is revealed here, and one attains enlightenment. I fear I will never attain enlightenment. For all I ever seem to experience is shallow sleep. And as averse to superficiality as I am, it is unfortunate that I do not remember the last time I experienced a “deep sleep.” How vain of me. If there was any time at all in which having depth would pay off, it would be now. How unfortunate that the profundity I profess to exude in reality does not translate into a similar profundity in matters of sleep.

And finally. The ancient Egyptians believed that dreams were the sleepy embodiments of our subconscious. To dream was to be transported to the stars, the home of higher consciousness. I do not sleep, so I cannot dream. I can never go home.