Saturday, June 07, 2008

before bed

Insomnia is no stranger to those in the law enforcement business. I'm consistently surprised to hear who of those I work with, those who are hard-chargers as we say, those who run headlong into the action, but to hear that they can not sleep. not ever. at least not more than forty five minutes at a time. and for years on end.

I had a run in with it myself not three months ago. not sleeping more than four hours at a time. tired all the time, and then never able to fall asleep.

frued had some interesting ideas about dreams, and sleep. generally pinpointing sleep and dreams as a nexus between the conscious and unconscious.

this general take on sleep and dreams fits nicely with what I see happening to cops on the job. there's a strong ability to not question, to not dig into events emotionally, an ability to respond to traumatic things without all the emotional hangups and bogs that traumatic things are supposed to bring with it. this makes us extremely effective in perilous circumstances. we continue to execute. we do not tend to hesitate for grief.

but you can't deny emotion. all men have it in them. some of the most stoic, i think, are the most overrun with undercurrents of rich but devastatingly chaotic feelings. we drive them deeper into our subconscious. we are less and less tolerant of any nexis between the bottom dwellers inside us and the confident, precise actions of our exterior. i.e. we can not tolerate sleep, because it makes us vulnerable to things surfacing. we need absolute consciousness to keep things submerged.

I like to fancy myself on a journey for my unconscious self:

a journey to bring more of it into consciousness, yes... but also to be content with a mysterious knowledge that I do not fully know myself, neither the gross things, nor the powerful beautiful things.

Christians have given up so much of the fight for the unconscious things. I think partly the unconscious overwhelms us. Partly, we would not be taught by sinners and blasphemers, like Freud, who first gave us a glimpse of what the unconscious could hold. and he was definitely a sinner and blasphemer. I don't argue that.

but this bias against the unconscious has infected our ideas about grace, for better or for worse, you can decide for yourself. maybe you would choose a word more like "sculpted" rather than "infected".

we believe grace will be given to us for our unconscious sin, and we are all willing to admit that there is probably lots of it. how else could we explain verses that tell us how awfully sinful we are when we don't particularly feel that way on a daily basis. We believe grace will cover unconscious sin, but when it comes to conscious sin... it's not for sure. if you're conscious of sin, shouldn't you be able to stop sinning. and if you can't, doesn't that mean you lack faith. and if you're now conscious of a lack in faith... holy fuck it's snowballing.

this system gives us plenty of reasons to be as unconscious of ourselves as possible, at least of the sinful parts. And selective consciousness doesn't normally turn out well, it's either the good and the bad, or nothing at all.

I see this pattern reflected in the time honored method of reading our Bibles. Some of my earliest memories are waking up early in the morning at my grandparents' house and finding my grandfather, faithful stoic that he was, reading his Bible, attending to every word in it. Literally, his Bible was underlined, or boxed, or noted at every word. This was the shining image of the man of God I was called to be. Always, the image is of a man studying the Word of God first thing in the morning.

Now I find it curious. We would not, and no one ever did, claim that you must have your daily Bible Studying time in the morning as opposed to the evening, or midday. but it was recommended. and it makes sense. if the first thing you fill your mind with in a day is the Word of God, you are more likely to be thinking about it throughout the day. When you are presented with moral challenges you will have the Word of God on the tip of your tongue and on the forefront of your mind. You will be most effectively conscious of what you read.

If you read the Bible at night, what you read fades out into the abyss of your sleeping and you will hardly remember or be conscious in the least of what you read the next morning.

This seems to play exactly into the devaluing of the unconscious. Somehow, addressing our unconscious does not give us the concrete return on investment that we are looking for to believe that we are progressing spiritually or morally or religiously.

Yet, if we feel alright about our conscious selves most of the time, and yet admit that we are terrible sinners like the Bible sometimes implies, and we would posit that that terrible sin in us must be mostly in our unconscious, than what better way to pursue holiness than by allowing the Word of God to preach most directly to that terribly sinful unconscious, i.e. by reading the Bible before bed?

I have come to realize that I think God loves me, but I don't believe it. Tonight, I thought, I'm going to read the Bible to that unconscious part in me that doesn't believe I'm lovable and will not allow me to believe the things I can easily assent to. I am going to read that verse where Jesus says, "and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age," and let the length of that statement stretch slowly out into my fading mind, let that thought speak to the very edges, the peripheries, into the very ends of my present concrete self, and maybe spill a little bit over to that other side, to the next age, into the sinful chaos I do not know, and the alienation from God I have not felt.

I think God speaks that far.