Sunday, 27 January 2013
TO SLEEP, PERCHANCE TO DIE...
When you're young, you have absolutely no concept of never having existed. On an intellectual level (if you ever felt disposed to consider the matter), you know there was a time when you weren't around, but you can't truly conceive what it was like because non-existence is a difficult if not impossible state to imagine.
Think of any period in mankind's history from before you were born; the Old West, the Victorian Era, the 1920s or '30s - what- ever. Even though you never experienced them, you almost feel as if you have, thanks to history books, old photographs, artists' impressions, TV shows, movies, etc. And because you can't remember your beginning, it seems as if you never actually had one and that you've been around forever. At least, that's what it seems like to me.
Consequently, when I was a teenager of 14, I subconsciously laboured under the impression that I had always been. (Though the same perception also applies to any point in my childhood from when I first became aware of my surroundings.) It's unlikely that I was alone in that regard, and it's surely the same for 14 year-olds today. It's only because fourteen years to someone of my age passes so quickly that I finally realized just how inconsequential such a period of time actually is. I've got things lying around the house which have never been out of the wrappers since I bought them that are older than that.
As you inexorably inch closer to that time when the condition of non-existence threatens to once again engulf you, it's a prospect you tend to contemplate more than you did (if at all) in your younger days. Finally, you begin to be able to nearly catch a glimmer of what extinction might be like, and the prospect isn't a pleasant one. I recall waking up in hospital one day after a procedure which required my unconsciousness, and was alarmed to find I had no recollection of even a half-sleep-like state between being knocked out and coming to.
As I said, no half-remembered thoughts, vague dreams, or hovering on the edge of awareness to connect me to my pre-anaesthetised self - only an absolute absence of even the slightest sense of continuity between the two conditions. It was then that I realised what oblivion must be like. It was as if I'd been dead for however
many hours I'd been out, and, although my body was still functioning, as far as my mind was concerned, there was no discernible difference between death and unconsciousness.
So, death is not merely a case of not waking up, it's also not even being aware of going to sleep or being asleep at any stage in the process. Shakespeare was wrong; there are no dreams in the sleep of death, only a blackness and silence from which we never awaken - an eternal nothingness, an everlasting night.
That's no doubt why I often find myself wishing I was only 14 again. The illusion of no beginning (and, by extension, no ending), while temporary, is a comforting and necessary notion, otherwise we'd probably abandon our journey before we were very far into it. After all, what's the point of taking a road to nowhere?
Come to think of it, I wouldn't even mind being half that age. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to work on that elixir of life I'm developing. I just can't afford to relax if I want to be here in 2113.
We are but older children, dear,
Who fret to find our bedtime near.
Posted by Kid at Sunday, January 27, 2013