Sunday, February 20, 2011

PLATONIC SLEEP DEPRIVATION


In high school my brother and I routinely awoke at 5:30 A.M. to make beds, dress, and do hundreds of calisthenic reps. During the German winters we shut our bedroom door, opened the rolladen windows horizontally to calibrate our room with a biting breeze in order to compel our working out. We combined excruciating exercise with Bible reading and the spiritual time-tithe we called "Devotions" (While other people were reading a mere 20 minutes a day, we were reading 60 minutes). Many a time I awoke from these torturous sessions to find I had fallen asleep in the fetal position next to the radiator with lightly-etched, burned lines in my back. As we adjusted to these conditions every few weeks, our wills hardened, and we rolled back our waking time by a half hour. At one point we were awaking at 3:30 A.M.


We rationalized the necessity for creating this edge. There was the commercial airliner that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland due to terrorists, the deaths of over 100 people at the Ramstein A.F.B. Air Show due to the collision of two Italian planes, the frightening novelty of an emerging Middle Eastern enemy, and the discomforting presence of neo-Nazism in our community. A greater reason existed: the general Christian consensus that we were living in the Last Days and that of all the people in the world we were probably the closest in proximity to the Anti-christ who was probably huddled up in an apartment building somewhere in Brussels, Belgium, awaiting for Christ's Return so he could finally walk around freely and get busy.


In our zeal we failed to understand that not only were we developing an edge that admirably increased our pain threshold, but we were also not getting much sleep. The signs were all around. We fell asleep before, during, and after school. We did not complete homework in a timely manner. Outside workout sessions we were lethargic. We consumed copious amounts of sweets from the village Edeka, spending marks upon marks on white chocolate, cookies, and pastries. We burned more calories than we consumed. Hyperfocus in one area trumped normal healthy human function in other areas.


Thought systems and structures that bifurcate faith and reason, heaven and earth, the spiritual and the physical have distinct outcomes and if given enough time will perpetuate their own unique diseases. On the Aristotelian side that elevates the secular over the sacred, one is ultimately left with nothing but material. Stuff. Things. It disregards spirit, spiritual health, emotional stability. At best, the sacred comes in an unhealthy second (aka, "last"). The Aristotelian view has expedience as its aim and the incessant categorization of particulars that will drive its adherents into state institutions like universities and mental health hospitals, babbling to themselves within the protective confines of very, very thick walls.


The Platonic side elevates the sacred over the secular and ultimately manifests itself by a disregard for the material. Idea. Impression. Platonic interests hyperfocus upon theoretical worlds, conceptual blueprints, and orgasmic ideals. The Platonic tendency demonstrates very little interest in appropriate, material manifestations of a thought. To the Platonist, thought is substance. The largely religious demographic that despises the world so much they ache to leave it manifest through time a rapid erosion of the intellect in the forms of paranoia, dementia, schizophrenia, and a myriad of other mental illnesses. The extreme cases end up babbling to themselves, too, but they do it in an entirely different place: the church, the private school, the not-for-profit ministry, at home. They, too, have no interest in correlating thought to reality so they prefer to ignore physical standards. That is why many in this camp do not sleep, cannot sleep, and choose not to sleep. There is so much they have to do, to prove, to save, to fight for that sleeping is metaphorical apathy and allegorical sin. Vigilance like this has no measurement and no end in sight.


I routinely get up at 5:00 A.M., but I have good reason. I have six children who orbit me like the sun, I have a school to develop, I have a consulting company to work, I have books within my industry that need to be read and understood, I have an exercise routine I find very helpful in increasing my productivity. And most importantly for these days, I need quiet time by the fireplace with a cup of hot tea in my hands to reflect over the last 38 years and how I can converge all of my effort to make today better.

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