Until We Understand Sleep, We’re Half-Asleep

The first photograph of the hand of God, 1986

My daughter wants to stay up and I’m putting her back to bed. “You know the best way to sleep?” I said. “Go to sleep!” She said she can’t sleep, but I tell her this. “You never remember the moment when you fall asleep, but it always happens.” Sleep is that cusp of consciousness, and the border is forever hazy. We spend our lives half hallucinating, and think we understand anything. We still don’t know why we sleep. We just pass out and drool on ourselves every day and we think ourselves masters of the universe. It’s laughable.

When I say we don’t understand why we sleep, I mean that within psychology there’s no clear explanation for sleep. Why? What? Fucking how? Parents can’t explain it to kids and the new priests we call scientists can’t explain it to adults. It’s still in the realm of philosophy, where we don’t even understand the question, nevermind the answer. And that’s just the physiology of sleep, not the crazy shit that happens when you’re dreaming. Last night I dreamt that my friend walked to the edge of his flat, stood on the edge, and just jumped over. It felt real as shit. That friend has dreams of fucking zombies almost every night, real night terrors. We have no explanation for this, no remedy, I’m honestly putting in calls to an exorcist.

Dreams are that nether realm between personal and scientific consciousness. Both the personal self and the dim scientific sense of collective consciousness are extinguished at night. We simply cannot record dreams, we cannot share them, we cannot study them in any coherent way. We cannot share them with a solitary soul, let alone remember them properly ourselves.We’re still as far from dream interpretation as the pharaohs were. We’ve honestly gotten more lost because we stopped believing in dreams at all.

Sleep challenges the very foundations of psychology. It challenges the very foundations of West Asian philosophy. Even philosophers pass out and drool on themselves. It’s humiliating. ‘Why do we sleep’ is one of those stupid questions humans ask, which make God laugh. Like ‘who am I?’ or ‘where do I come from?’. Asking why we sleep is like asking God if an asteroid is offsides. God doesn’t play football, he’s playing a much bigger ballgame. As he showed us in 1986, God doesn’t give a fuck about the rules of football, or psychology, or philosophy, or any other human pastime. God is past time. God is bigger than all that. He’s simply not understandable through the petty fumblings of the fingers and vocal cords of an ape. We can’t even observe the universe for much more than one spin of our planet without passing out. And we think ourselves masters of it. What a cosmic farce.

As the Native America philosopher Brian Yazzie Burkhart says, “It is generally thought by Native philosophers that questions are most often a sign of confusion and misunderstanding. The answer to a question often lies in the question itself rather than in some solution outside of the question.” In 100% of ancient thought there is the idea that somethings are not known, cannot be known, and even should not be known. There’s also the deep sense of awe and worship this gives you, which West Asian philosophers idiotically dismiss and mere ‘religion’ and ‘superstition’ and beneath them. And yet they are also chasing the same feeling. We are all chasing that same feeling. To understand what the fuck is going on and what we’re doing here. And yet we simply cannot answer that question. The answer is No, no matter how many times we ask differently.

If we can’t understand sleep—wherein we’re literally lying still, begging to be studied—how can we possibly understand waking life? How can we possibly understand the great motion and commotion of life walking this Earth, bumping into countless people, doing innumerable things? It simply does not compute. All you can do is sit back, look at the tapestry, and feel awe. All you can do is submit to Allah, take refuge in the Buddha, or light whatever candles give you warmth in the dark. Philosophers get this feeling also, indeed I have gotten it from the shaking of leaves in the cold Montreal air, just as fresh as when the Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bo tree. Any human can get it, from watching their children sleep, from good sex, from good food, from any of the infinite connections that lead us back to God themself.

The greatest understanding is this. Understand that you don’t understand. That you can’t understand. The only waking from dreaming is to realize that everything is a dream. Then it all becomes clear. We have no idea what the fuck is going on and we never will. This is, in an extinguishing-of-the-self way, quite liberating.