SLEEP

In Rousseau's painting, the lion does not eat us. The rules are different when we're asleep.

In Rousseau's painting, the lion does not eat us. The rules are different when we're asleep.

Ten hour work days. Sure: they're kind of ordinary. Twelve hour days start to grind after working too many in a row. We all get fourteens sometimes; they happen now and again, nothing you can do. And sixteens, too.

But when you start pulling twentys and twenty-twos, you know there's either something way off kilter, or you have an unusually good reason, something to do you just can't miss.

Nonetheless... …cars running at redline start to go kaflooy, and so will you.

The antithesis of it all is the bliss of sleep.

Here's the great bounce: in the early morning, sometimes surprisingly soon after pulling back the sheets, I find I'm impulsively creative. I'm not agile yet; I don't coin my best phrases, or design my best camera moves. But I see things in true forms, true colors. My feelings stretch out, I perceive emotional clarity, coupled with an unencumbered intellectual radar. Mornings bring visions borne on the dreams of recent sleep.

Sleep is a door to places we cannot travel by will alone. It's an escape hatch, a salve, a map. It can also elude and torment us, as everyone knows who's desperately wanted to sleep but cannot manage to do so for one reason or another.

Sleep behaves like all essential things: food, water, physical exertion, or solitude. It's possible to have too much or too little; it's possible to have good sleep and bad. But the creative person knows that it's not something left to chance. If you want to be at the top of your game you cannot operate at your peak if your senses are endlessly dulled by lack of sleep. You may think you can fight through the haze, but the parts of you that are not yours to control simply do not function in the same way. Conversely, if you switch off too often or too long you're actively shutting off the conscious parts of your brain that bring in the intellectual and emotional fuel that makes creative solutions possible in the first place. You can check out of your conscious life by spending your life asleep just as you can check out of your conscious life by avoiding sleep too long.

But most of all, creative people can tune in to what the experience of sleep delivers. Passively, it simply cleans the body and mind, and that's no small thing. But actively embraced, consciously considered upon waking, sleep is a daily adventure to lands unknown. The momentary emptiness that attends our transition from sleep to waking is a chance to translate sights and sounds from our metaphysical travels to the present. I'm not speaking of dreams here, per se, although those are certainly valuable to preserve and mine, too. But in those hours of complete vulnerability and simple biology, we are available to an alternative reality. If you're life is about creating things, then every chance you have to experience clear visions of alternate realities are opportunities to savor and defend. The funny thing is that it sounds so ordinary: everyone sleeps every day. But that's precisely the point. Because everyone sleeps every day it could easily be taken as an ordinary inconvenience, a triviality. To me, that's the moment I begin to realize that there's something valuable and transformative hiding in plain sight. That means, each of us get another crack at transformation every single day.

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