Insomnia is the realm of questions, not answers. Sleep brings answers, solved in the deep peace of timelessness free from bits of this and bits of that. Insomnia is a noisy carnival without the joy. It is a place that at its best echoes back to your many questions that humans are unfathomable. In insomnia we are not glorious, we are skin, bone, muscle, sinew, and digestive and pumping and cleansing organs that house the determination to live. Insomnia keeps us awake for the dark night of the soul, which to my mind is partially caused by lack of sleep.
Unfathomable, that’s what we are. It could be a song, a waltz. A waltz over the troubling facts of the portfolio of humans on earth. We love, and we kill. We desire, and we plunder. We create beauty, and poison ourselves with hate. We set up national, cultural, familial borders and defend them to our detriment. We are savage beings who want to adore each other but are afraid.
Our rages and our fears lead us to pipelines that will – you know they will – leak; to recycled genocides; to trampling on the weakest of us as the “natural order”; to overuse of satire and condemnation; to confusing work with progress. We are small things with large hearts. We are blind things homesick for beauty, especially our own. We are deaf creatures who hear unsung music in our fibers.
Insomnia is a place of anxiety where scale is not recognized. That large black dogs are the last to be rescued from shelters feels almost as sad as that killing has resumed in the South Sudan, and the fact that I know by name large black dogs who have not been rescued through their photos on FB but know not the name of a single Sudanese is profoundly sad, but not proportionately so.
It’s where unanswered emails are suddenly remembered and are disturbing, but no more so than that the protagonist in the book I’m reading is losing his lover.
It’s where the question of getting up for yogurt with some fig jam has the gravitas of the future of the Ukraine. (The yogurt question looms large.) Things are not to scale and the “here now” and the “there now” – even the “there then” – vie for your attention as equals: “Me, me, look at me.”
One’s cells tingle in mild panic: “Hey, we have to work tomorrow, will you just turn off the switch?” The ringing that is in all our ears if we listen to it is louder between 1 am and 5 am, juvenile locusts, still sopranos.
We are unfathomable. The best thing, perhaps the only good thing, about insomnia is that sometimes you remember those you have recently lost (like your mother), those you love and who love you even through the dark and unstated, those who need you and you must remember to tend when morning comes, and that in the churning over of humans – that toothed conveyer belt of time – there is a goodness, quite aside from the startling gifts of genius and art and science.
There is a goodness that, as yeast rises daily bread, will help us rise again, not only at the light but towards common good. It is packed in there with the bones, muscle, sinews and the rest. How that works, who knows? Insomnia brings no answers, only tenacity.