Chapter three -the third letter
Zzzzzzzzzz…..And still more sleeps and dreams later….tappity tappity tap tap tap tappity tap…
I recently read that researchers have discovered the jelly fish and worms need sleep. This amazed me. I was taught that “only complex animals like humans need sleep”.
We like to believe creatures like jelly fish and worms have very simple systems compared to our system. Could it be they also need sleep because they share our intelligence?
Have you studied a baby or your mum or dad or your family pet while it is sleeping? At first glance they seem to be dead. However you soon sense there is a lot going on when you study them more closely..
What’s going on? No one knows. Some research suggests sleep increases our creativity three fold. It’s a great, mind-boggling paradox: we might be more alive and creative while we are asleep than when we are awake and running around. For instance, it seem our brain cleansing mechanisms only operates when we are asleep. Also our bodies start breaking down if we do not get enough sleep, This is because much of the repair of our body occurs while we are sleeping.
Who or what is looking after us like this? Could it be the ancient wisdom of our 3,000,000,000 body cells and the wills of our trillions of microbes care for us when we are asleep?
All I know is something wonderful and healing is going in me while I am asleep. Perhaps the 30 years I gave to sleeping will have been vital to a good life if I live to 90?
And that’s not all that is going on. There we are fast asleep – eyes closed, usually in the dark and silence of our bedroom. Our bodies are barely moving – our arms and legs are somehow paralyzed, frozen in time. Meanwhile in our minds eye we see ourselves acting in all sorts of impossible ways and we are feeling all types of emotions – fear, joy, shame, frustration, tenderness…
Occasionally we wake with a vivid memory of the experience. Usually it has vanished by the time we have got dressed and eaten breakfast. All we know is we are still alive and amazing, fantastic stuff goes on in our dreams while we sleep. No one knows why and how creatures dream?
Maybe dreaming opens our minds to greater possibilities and this enables us to imagine all sorts of connection we cannot think of while we are wake?
Its all pretty amazing eh. Asleep and awake, we are active. Each of us is a vibrant community of trillions of microscopic particles or cells. Each of these tiny, tiny cells is interacting with the cells around them and with the universe beyond them in some way.
Even more amazing – the cells of our body have somehow sustained their unique form for maybe 3,000,000,000 years or more. Imagine the extremes of change they have adapted to.
Yes – you and I were born in this great universal connection and wisdom. Us adults tend to forget it and end up acting in weird, even foolish ways.
So here is a picture of how a human being acts. It portrays each of us as an amazing information system. Every moment millions of millions of exchanges of information occur within a human being and between a human being and the rest of the universe. Every cell, every microbe, every part of us continually evaluates and acts in this vast flow of information to help it survive.
And get this: in any moment you and I are self-aware of less than ten of these trillions of sensations and decisions. In other words, thought is a tiny, tiny part of who or what a human being is. It is the merest, trace element of a human’s psyche or consciousness.
I am like most adults in our culture. We find it hard to imagine that our self-awareness is actually a tiny part of our psyche. Part of us insists our ability to think is the most important element of our being. We think thinking is all important though for thousands of years people have explained this is not true.
For instance, sages from ancient times likened a human being to an immense ocean of information and sensations. They described our self-awareness (our thoughts) as being a mere, passing glint of sunlight on a wave tip on this ocean’s surface.
They also warned us to be careful how we act because a small change to a tiny element of a system can cause huge changes to the whole system. They explained how our thoughts are very vital and powerful even if they are a tiny element of a human being. We modern-day adults tend to ignore and forget this wisdom of the universe.
Anyway I have been sleeping and sleeping on your great, tricky questions.
I hope you can now see why sleep is so important for me. So much amazing learning and problem-solving stuff seems to happen when we are asleep – insight and solutions occur in our sleep that we can never think up when we are awake.
The truth is I could sleep a billion sleeps and still not be able to find the words to explain what the ego is. The reason? The ego shapes every word we say, every thought we have, and it is an incredible trickster.
“Ego” means “I” in Latin and just look at how many times I write the word “I” in these letters to you. How often do you say “I” in your life?
Where does the ego, this sense of “I” come from? I may never truly know where it comes from. Indeed I may never know where life comes from.
An element of me says that is OK because it is the wonderful mystery of existence. The ego seems to arise with any sensation of self-awareness. However can you remember when you first said, “Hey, I am aware I exist?” Smile. Maybe you thought it and could only go “Waah Waah” because you had not learned to speak English words?
Perhaps it is helpful to imagine our human psyche as an information system made up of three parts:
(1) the relatively vast conscious element
(2) the relatively tiny, fleeting self-aware element
(3) the ego, which acts like a medium or filter between the other two parts.
Imagine trying to continuously change and mend all your clothes at once while riding a unicycle on a tight rope stretched between Earth and the Moon. The first 500 miles you are at risk of falling off and crashing back to Earth. Beyond that you are at risk of floating away into the vastness of space. And you have to hold your breath each time you take your space suit off. And the spinning Earth winds up the rope tighter and tighter…
Well, talking and writing about the ego is even more tricky. For instance, we cannot think of both our left and right hands at the same time. Do you remember starting to learn of walk, ride a bike or swim? Thinking what each arm or leg was doing really messed with your sense of balance. However we could walk, swim or ride a bike with ease once we learned to trust our greater consciousness. Perhaps this trust enables us to lead a more balanced life in general?
First draft- March 16 2018