A convincing way to recognize one’s clear and present insanity is to lay in bed in the middle of the night, unable to fall asleep. For some reason, the midnight mind believes it has a free pass to randomly dredge up various unresolved memory fragments while simultaneously pondering recipes for tomorrow night’s dinner, fantasizing about the intriguing pathways one might have tread if only they had not gotten distracted by fill-in-the-name, and considering the imminent threat of incoming asteroids which are discovered too late to change one’s will and leave everything to the local Animal Shelter.
And that’s just for starters. Some craziness is fabricating an impromptu story, and you are the central character. You are trying to get somewhere, and although there is a sense of urgency, it is never really clear where that somewhere is supposed to be. Tonight you are at an airport, although it could be any night, or even in the daylight. Yes, it is daytime, and the line in which you are waiting is interminably slow. Hours have passed, and it has barely moved at all. A uniformed attendant passes by, and you leave the line to follow them. When you get outside, there are massive buildings towering high in the air, and although you try to navigate the streets, it seems as if you are just moving further away from your intended destination.
You are much younger now, and this may have happened already in another time, but that doesn’t make sense. All you know for sure is that you need to get somewhere. That is all that matters, and so you lift up and soar into the air. Yes, you are flying. You always knew you could, you have done it before. It’s like breathing underwater, you’ve done that too. It was a vast water world, and you were swimming with the others, the beautiful ones that painters try to capture for the surreal galleries, but only end up frustrated with their artistic renderings. Still, the viewing public is impressed, but you know in your heart it is all a pale artifice.
You want to describe it. You come up with some great lines. You repeat them over and over so you won’t forget, but when you open your eyes, you realize that you have been dreaming, somehow you fell asleep, and now that you have awoken, you try to remember those lines, but it is hopeless. You go back to your ideas for the next night’s meal, but with less enthusiasm. You don’t care about asteroids, let them come.
Maybe you should try a mantra, perhaps that would work, or count your breaths — there are so many of them, one for each thought, and then an exhalation between thoughts gives you an idea. You get out of bed and put on your slippers. You go to the window and look out at the moon, just setting behind the trees. You watch it slowly sink down until it is complete gone, and now there is just this deep darkness. You take an inventory of your feelings, but there is nothing there. How about that!
When you go back to bed, there is a sense of being aware, but there is no object of awareness. Just stay with that. If you can maintain that fresh pristine awareness, without being distracted by your tendency to snore and break the mood, you will be doing pretty good. Hold that thought, and it will dispel all other thoughts. Then discard that one too. Simple! It is almost morning, after all. You can almost smell the coffee. You like coffee, and then what will you have for breakfast? That’s the question that now occupies your attention, and the fish tank – you should really clean it out after breakfast. And now it is getting lighter outside the window. Maybe a bird begins to chirp. Yes, there it is now.
(Painting by Douglas Link)