A Writer’s Book of Days – 6 June 2016

While the World Sleeps

While the world sleeps, I dream.

While the world sleeps, I burn.

While the world sleeps, I yearn to be a part of something that I am not.

While the world sleeps, nature takes its course.

***

While the world sleeps, no one sleeps. The world is not one person, one group of people, one time. It moves in shifts and changes tone to match the pace of the sun across the sky.

When one person wakes, another ends their day, regret or content floating on the surface of their mind.

When one person breaks for lunch, happily interrupting the monotony of their day, another lingers in the death-like embrace of midnight sleep. Neither is engaged, floating through both their lives in waking unconsciousness or knowing surrender.

The world never sleeps. And not just because cities require around-the-clock service. To assume the world stops when you close your eyes is the ultimate act of arrogance.

And yet the world does stop, for all you care, when you close your eyes.

To each of us, the world is only what we perceive it to be. Your vision of the world and my vision of the world are equally valid, equally idiosyncratic, and equally unequal. Reality is a subjective filter, seldom shaken save by an effort of will on our part to be open to new perspectives.

I can no more convince an atheist that God exists than I can convince a racist that Black Lives Matter, unless those people are willing to let their views be changed.

But to change our views is to commit ourselves to an act of vulnerability. Perhaps the ultimate vulnerability, because it concerns the self.

And we are all more concerned about our self-image than we are about being right.

I would rather be indifferent to those who are poorer from me, even though I preach generosity, if it means I can continue feeling superior.

I would rather hold to my assumptions of people, even though I preach open-mindedness, if it means I can win an argument.

I would rather assume that millions of people are less intelligent than me, even though I preach diversity, if it means I can maintain that there is no redeeming quality to the Transformers movies.

Vulnerability of the self and a true openness to change is as terrifying to the rational mind as death and to the over-thinking mind as sleep.

If I change, am I still me?

When I die, do I end?

Should I have the good fortune of waking, will that be a new person?

It’s the same reason we stigmatize mental illness.

It’s the same reason I’m f***ing terrified of mental illness, dementia, lobotomies, and the Imperious Curse.

I don’t want to lose control of my self. I want to be confident in who I am. I don’t want to change unless it’s for the better, and even then only if I’m happy with the change.

But I have never been confident in who I am. And that person has often been willing to change to better match his surroundings.

In theater? I’ll be theatrical.

In college? I’ll be collegiate.

In sales? I’ll be a seller.

And I’m not the only one who does this, sure. But if that’s the case, then what are we all so afraid of when our self-image is challenged by outside ideas? Why is it so important for our view of reality to be the definitive one? Especially when our place in the world, and the world’s view of us, can be so dependent on our surroundings?

At work, you wouldn’t want your coworkers to assume you’re just as boring at home.

In class, you wouldn’t want your classmates to assume you’re just as insufferable when having fun.

On stage, you wouldn’t want the audience to assume you’re just as vicious, lusty, or hateful in real life.

So extend that mercy to those you meet, and those you hear about on the other side of the world. Don’t assume the one thing you hear about them or see in them is the only thing that defines them.

Just as you wouldn’t assume the whole world stops spinning as soon as you close your eyes.

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