Orpheus Morpheus

Maybe I’m hanging with the wrong crowd, but it seems that everyone I know needs more and better sleep. It is, for most of us, a linchpin issue, the alpha domino in the cascading chain of life’s chaos and entropy.

If we could only get the sleep thing right, everything else would just fall into place. We would not begin in debt and end  in deficit. We would turn back into the transitory verbs we were born to be: actors upon, not acted upons.

I suspect that all the intricate narratives of psychology that we fix on — maladaptations, patterns and the needs of clamorous past — would just slough off and reveal themselves for the briefly fashionable mid-twentieth-century parlor amusement that they are. We would be reborn each day, and who could ask more than that?


Maybe I am overstating the case, but there’s a little secret I carry around that colors everything I do: no sleep. Sleep requires more than just a surface calm. I can lie atop a calm surface all night just as I would upon the electric grids of anxiety, unperturbed, and never feel the briny tendrils and mesh of sleep twining with my digits and offering me down. Never even know the place was there.

It has permissions, currencies, signaling systems.

Sleep is not still. It is not passive. It is engagement. It demands composure, energy, and form. It has angles of entry, its own laws of physics, a language we can occasionally remember.

It favors the koans of misdirection. To find out who you really are, write about something else. To know sleep, forget its name. You must construct your own shaft for falling, and fall in a composed but egoless posture of surrender. Total confidence or nothing. One look back, Orpheus, and it is over. Sleep is our one true superpower  — the ability to breathe underwater, and you know what happens the moment you begin to doubt it.


Read more installments of Village Voices by John Burdick.

There is one comment

  1. Jacob The Dreamer

    Every time i try going to sleep, some angel shows up, challenges me to a wrestling match, touches the hollow of my thigh, and tries to drag up a ladder to the skies? Why doesn’t he pick on Job for a while?

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