Monday, November 21, 2011

Who Disturbs My Tomb?! Death and Sleep, Monsters and Resurrection

Letter XIII, our old friend Death. What would life be without that fiendishly grinning ma-ha-ha-samadhi?

What to make of inscrutable death? How are we to think around its unthinkable essence? One of the reasons death is difficult to penetrate, is that it is such a concrete fact -- just that big black wall over the subjective horizon, or the rapidly approaching canyon floor below Wile E. Coyote.

What do we really know about death? What can we affirm about it that isn't merely an abstract idea? Indeed, most anything we say will be an infinite distance from the state of being dead, unless we happen to be tenured or employed with the MSM.

At first blush, it seems that death is one of those existential parameters that the mind can never contain, but rather, contains us -- like time or space or sexuality or desire.

Sex and death are intimately related, for if we didn't sexually reproduce, we wouldn't die, at least for any biological reason. Rather, we would live endlessly, except that it would be a horizontal endlessness, which is not to be confused with eternity (which is outside time).

Furthermore, without the boundary of death, we couldn't know nothing, which is the beginning of knowledge. Animals can only know something, but even then, they don't know that they know, because they don't know that they die. Only man can know that he he doesn't know, and thereby clear a potential space for knowledge. Out of this deathly silence will grow words of various kinds.

unKnown Friend says that it is the above form of purely biological pseudo-eternal life that the serpent promises when he tells Adam and Eve that they "shall not die." Thus, technically he wasn't lying, because a vertical lie may well be a horizontal truth (and vice versa), as our trolls never stop teaching us.

In our bʘʘk, we wrote of the extreme unlikelihood of anything resembling human intelligence evolving elsewhere in the cosmos, for human intelligence isn't just a matter of "big brains." Far from it. Look at Noam Chomsky or Paul Krugman. It's hard enough for human beings to develop human intelligence, and if history is to be our guide, man usually falls short of this standard.

Humanness emerges specifically because of the trimorphic situation of an immature and incomplete nervous system in dynamic rapport with an "empathic" mother and "protecting" father (and when we speak of "mother" and "father," we are doing so from the infant's archetypal perspective, wherein the early experience of empathy becomes mother, and is directed into that preconceptual archetype or "empty category"; in this view, mother emerges from baby, and then father from mother -- more on which below).

UF writes of the connection between, on the one hand, sleeping, forgetting, and death; and on the other, waking, remembering, and life.

For example, psychoanalysis has long posited the idea that chronic insomnia can result from an inability to die to the day. One lives by day, but then must let it dissolve and scatter within the death of sleep.

So many people cannot "let go of the day." Instead, it intrudes upon their easeful death, persecuting and tormenting them. Then, even worse, they dream -- or more often have nightmares -- by day, since they cannot metabolize experience by night and wake refreshed and resurrected in the morning.

Who disturbs my tomb!!! That's pretty much the question any new patient brings to therapy.

For other people, they cannot die to the unconscious because of the monsters that lie there in in wait and haunt the interior world. This is a routine result of a traumatic childhood, of things that happened to them -- and more commonly, what didn't happen to them, in the form of a secure and "containing" relationship with the mother. For these individuals, they cannot "rest in peace," because their dream life is like a continuous horror movie, a "living death."

For that is what a monster is, isn't it -- an indiscriminate mixture of the categories of life and death, resulting in a grotesque entity that has no proper archetype? During Holloween week TMC ran the classic monster movies, and they all share this feature of living death or death living: Frankenstein, the Wolfman, Dracula, the Mummy.

Perhaps this gives us a clue about death -- that it is not so much the opposite of life, but a dark form of it. One might say that Christmas celebrates Life amidst death, while Halloween "celebrates" death in life. Probably no coincidence that this unholy-day has become much more popular with the increasing secularization of our culture, i.e., the culture of death (which is by extension a culture of journalistic sleeping and left-wing forgetting).

I remember reading an interesting book -- here it is, Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality -- which suggests that most funeral rites evolved around concerns of making certain that the dead stay that way -- that the corpse is not merely dead, but really most sincerely dead. (The book takes an academic and positivistic approach, so it's of limited usefulness except for the historical trivia, which is at times nevertheless fascinating.)

So, to sleep is to forget the day and awaken to the world of the Dreamer: "One forgets, one goes to sleep, and one dies." In turn, "One remembers, one awakes, and one is born" (MOTT).

In a previous post, I discussed the idea that from a developmental perspective, one may turn Genesis on its head and see the infant-Adam as the creator of God and everything else.

In fact, from a certain perspective, this is how it must be, and to the extent that one fails to understand this distinction, one may well fail to appreciate the difference between God and infantile omnipotence.

Unfortunately, not only is this conflation commonplace, but it might even be the norm. Certainly the Islamist god is indistinguishable from an enraged baby, while the infantile dreams of the left are suspiciously similar to those conjured by the omnipotent and implacable gods of the nursery, whose demands are few: I Want!, More!, and Again!

Looked at in this way, the human baby's shocking discovery of Adam and Eve -- or a Mother and Father separate from the baby, with wills, desires, and interests of their own -- is an insult to the baby's omnipotence. How dare Mommy and Daddy exist separate from my magical wishes!

Therefore the baby-god banishes them from the infantile paradise, where the infant restores his "oneness with God." No coincidence therefore that the way back to paradise is blocked by a coterie of babies with flaming swords.

To fall asleep is not just to give up everything, but to do so in the faith that everything will somehow be cleansed and transformed when we are reincarnated and reborn in the morning. So sleep again has this digestive or metabolic property; which implies that death and forgetting do as well.

And in fact, one doesn't have to comb very far through the esoteric literature to discover this idea, that the initial postmortem state is very much analogous to the metabolic function of dreaming, except that it will range over our entire life, so that whatever was "inessential" is consigned to the flames, while what is essential lives in eternity.

In any event, know that your life is being dreamt by forces far greater than yourself, and not just at night.

This is perhaps the central point of Finnegans Wake, which is supposed to be the dream of all human history within the ultimate Dreamer (wake is a play on words, meaning the wake of death and the wide a-wakeness of Dreamer and Resurrection, in which we fin again only to reboot and sin again). Here's how Joseph Campbell describes it:

"Finnegans Wake is a mighty allegory of the fall and resurrection of mankind. It is a strange book, a compound of fable, symphony, and nightmare -- a monstrous enigma beckoning imperiously from the shadowy pits of sleep. Its mechanics resemble those of the dream, a dream which has freed the author from the necessities of common logic and has enabled him to compress all periods of history, all phases of individual and racial development, into a circular design, of which every part is beginning, middle and end.... Joyce presents, develops, amplifies and recondenses nothing more nor less than the eternal dynamic implicit in birth, death, conflict, death, and resurrection."

To be resurrected and continued....

24 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Sex and death are intimately related, for if we didn't sexually reproduce, we wouldn't die, at least for any biological reason.

In a twist of irony, I suspect large swathes of modern populations are ceasing to reproduce at least partly in the expectation that they themselves will not die, at least not for a very long time. Everyone feels immortal when they're young, but in this generation everyone also seems to assume that by the time they're old, science will have beaten this whole aging schtick and they can hold off on growing up pretty much forever.

11/21/2011 08:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

True. Like a Bill Maher -- or our troll William -- one can remain adolescent forever. Ironically, children signify death. I remember Christopher Hitchens remarking that in looking at his child for the first time, he felt as if he were looking at his funeral director.

11/21/2011 09:01:00 AM  
Anonymous babyhitch said...

I mean, that's just how a baby looks when you're drunk!

11/21/2011 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Of all the things that bother me, death just isn't one of those things. If dying is done correctly, it can be just fine for everyone involved.

It's *aging*, particularly at the end that annoys me. We really need to be focusing on how to improve the quality of life for older people, not trying to extend lifespans. We need healthy 80 year olds, not 160 year olds.

The Japanese aren't reproducing.

That's going to cause some sort of massive debt mess in the near future.

And yeah, the post-death experience can apparently be somewhat uncomfortable. Bu that's life.

I like your take on the relationship between dreaming and the initial post-mortem.

wv: prestmas - The mall version of Christmas. A mass for the sole purpose of buying presents.

11/21/2011 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

This is one of my favorite subjects.

...so that whatever was "inessential" is consigned to the flames, while what is essential lives in eternity.

I think this is exactly what Jesus was talking about when He talked about hell as a place where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. If you can't let it go, it will just keep burning.

See also 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.

As someone who has been more or less sleep-deprived on a routine basis for the last fifteen years, I can empirically confirm that some of those monsters are a lot easier to deal with at night than in the daytime.

11/21/2011 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

" In our bk, we wrote of the extreme unlikelihood of anything resembling human intelligence evolving elsewhere in the cosmos, for human intelligence isn't just a matter of "big brains." Far from it. Look at Noam Chomsky or Paul Krugman. It's hard enough for human beings to develop human intelligence, and if history is to be our guide, man usually falls short of this standard."

Lol... Ah men.

11/21/2011 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"And in fact, one doesn't have to comb very far through the esoteric literature to discover this idea, that the initial postmortem state is very much analogous to the metabolic function of dreaming, except that it will range over our entire life, so that whatever was "inessential" is consigned to the flames, while what is essential lives in eternity.

In any event, know that your life is being dreamt by forces far greater than yourself, and not just at night."

Sort of makes mere ghost stories, seem rather tame, doesn't it?

11/21/2011 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie said "Everyone feels immortal when they're young, but in this generation everyone also seems to assume that by the time they're old, science will have beaten this whole aging shtick and they can hold off on growing up pretty much forever."

Good tie in with the dropping birth rates.

I've always found the obsession with youth and appearing 'younger!', and over 'youthful optimism!' as disturbingly morbid... it seems that nature does as well.

11/21/2011 11:14:00 AM  
Anonymous uss ben said...

I think i have knightmares since i always seem to be fighting when i dream. cool special effects though. however it is still more refreshing than a lot of broken sleep or no sleep. writing from my phone at the va. awaiting some bloodletting. great post Bob!

11/21/2011 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

I've adopted the hobby of yelling out in anger in the middle of the night.

It's not very troublesome to me. I just shrug and go right back to sleep. Weird dreams or angry dreams don't really bother me.

It wakes the entire house up, though. It's not kid-friendly.

11/21/2011 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous uss ben said...

Ha! still got some blood left! they missed a vial. are you feelin me blood? life is chuck full O surprises?!

11/21/2011 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

"One forgets, one goes to sleep, and one dies." In turn, "One remembers, one awakes, and one is born" (MOTT).

-seems a 4th pair of alternatives also could belong: One sickens/is wounded....one heals!

PS: Sex & Death?
sounds like Scorpio time!
[basic themes thereof]

11/21/2011 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Ben - I'm glad they left you with a little something, at least. I hope all the results look good!

11/21/2011 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

A couple of the comments here make me think back. My childhood was dominated by me being bullied by my schoolmates. I did not know the reason for this at the time, of course. But my reaction was to assimilate it into an icy cold hate. There was no hot anger in that hate, just an absolute, black and white conviction that a fairly large subset of the population ought to be killed for the good of all. As my childhood progressed toward youth, I began to routinely notice places where a fatal "accident" just might happen in the steep Norwegian terrain, and with the innocent cooperation of family members I began to learn how to handle small-caliber shotguns and large knives. (Hunting and flaying are still respectable pastimes in the land of the Nords, so kids in the countryside are encouraged to start hunting rats and birds even before puberty.) When at the age of fifteen I met God and decided to become one, this personality did not simply go poof. Throughout my twenties and well into my thirties, I would routinely dream about fighting to the death, killing men in any number of ways from cannons to shotguns to axe to bashing their head in with a stone or even strangling them with my bare hands. I am glad I slept alone. Once I woke up with a gun in my hands, still thinking that enemy agents had surrounded the house. So yeah, that was some metabolizing going on those years for sure.

I don't know what would have happened had I died during that time. Actually, I don't even know what will happen if I die in the near future. But I've definitely become a lot less judgmental than I used to be, and I am pretty sure my dreams (and the fact that I remember them) have a lot to do with that.

wv:press (yeah, the press didn't exactly help change my mind on the need for vigilante activity.)

11/21/2011 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Magnus, that's interesting about metabolizing your anger in dreams. I can remember a few points where a similar thing happened, though probably not anywhere near that extent.

Speaking of dreams and death, though, I had a somewhat interesting one last week. I was helping to move bodies from a cemetery, which was being closed for some reason, and found myself working in a sort of charnel house where I had to clean all the decomposing and rotten flesh off the bones (which was far too graphic for comfort). What was left was just the pure whiteness that endures, in a manner of speaking, with all the impurities removed. Oddly, it gave me a better sense of respect for all those old monasteries in Europe where there were so many dead that they stacked just the bones, often using them to build elaborate underground artworks.

11/21/2011 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger ZZMike said...

I've been away from your site for some years.

"... the extreme unlikelihood of anything resembling human intelligence evolving elsewhere in the cosmos,..."

And look at this planet: Life (As We Know It) seems to have developed/evolved/begun at a single location in Africa.

I'm not sure how that explains the Chinese (for one), but then, it's been rather a long time since then.

julie: "...large swathes of modern populations are ceasing to reproduce at least partly in the expectation that they themselves will not die..."

At least a few are doing that because they think the planet is in danger of overpopulation.

"... they can hold off on growing up pretty much forever."

Many of our young seem to have achieved that end. OWS protestors, for one.

11/21/2011 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Darn! I'm late to the party. Great post Bob. And great comments as well. (Epecially my "cousin" Magnus.)

I'm late because I was 'dead' for about an hour today. Thought that hanging around here would give me some insights but it was just a discontinuity in time. In other words, thought n-1, describing hobbies to anesthesiologist. Thought n, "where am I? Oh, hello recovery RN."

julie sez: "In a twist of irony, I suspect large swathes of modern populations are ceasing to reproduce at least partly in the expectation that they themselves will not die, at least not for a very long time." YES!

Bob says: "One might say that Christmas celebrates Life amidst death, while Halloween "celebrates" death in life. Probably no coincidence that this unholy-day has become much more popular with the increasing secularization of our culture, i.e., the culture of death.." YES!

Also, FWIW, whenever I get enough rest I almost invariably dream of steep mountains and blue, clear waters. Pinin' for the fjords I suppose. (I'm 1/4 Swede, 1/4 Norge)

11/21/2011 07:37:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

John Lien,
I'd say death - even if temporary - is an excellent excuse to come late. I also wish you a speedy recovery.

As it happens I vaguely knew a John Lien who was a friend (or perhaps enemy, but I think friend) of my oldest brother. He'd be 61 or 62 now though. I don't recall whether we were actually relatives (almost everyone in the area was to some degree, but if so, it would be 6th cousins once removed or something like that). So I got a bit of a shock when you used the word "cousin". Seems it wasn't quite that literal though. ^_^

11/21/2011 09:41:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Glad you're still with us John!

Hi Julie: Well, for the first time in my life I had high blood pressure so I get to take more pills (yay) and I hafta cut down on the bacon. :^(

But at least I can still have bacon and I'll enjoy it much more, iof that's possible. :^)

11/21/2011 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

John, whatever the reason for the anesthesia, I hope you are on the mend soon!

Also, dreaming of mountains and water sounds lovely.

11/21/2011 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

So, to sleep is to forget the day and awaken to the world of the Dreamer: "One forgets, one goes to sleep, and one dies." In turn, "One remembers, one awakes, and one is born" (MOTT).

FishEaters.com says this of the Cock:


The cock is the harbinger of the dawn, and "Oriens" -- "Dawn" -- is one of the titles for Christ (used especially in the O Antiphons during Advent). It is, then, a general symbol for Hope. Further, it is ancient belief that the cock's crow breaks enchantments and evil spells. Prudentius (d. 861), Bishop of Troyes, wrote "They say that the night-wandering demons, who rejoice in dunnest shades, at the crowing of the cock tremble and scatter in sore affright."

The Aberdeen Bestiary (c. 1200) speaks of the cock thusly:

The crowing of the cock at night is a pleasant sound, and not only pleasant but useful; like a good partner, the cock wakes you when you are asleep, encourages you if you are worried, comforts you if you are on the road, marking with its melodious call the progress of the night.

With the crowing of the cock, the robber calls off his ambush; the morning star itself is awakened, rises and lights up the sky; the anxious sailor sets aside his cares, and very often each tempest and storm whipped up by evening winds moderates. At cockcrow the devout of mind rise eagerly to pray, able once again to read the office. When the cock crowed assiduously for the last time, Peter himself, the rock of the Church, washed away his guilt, which he had incurred by denying Christ before cockcrow.

With the crowing of the cock, as with the words of Jesus, hope returns to everyone, the troubles of the sick are eased, the pain of wounds is lessened, the raging heat of fevers is moderated, faith is restored to those who have fallen. Jesus watches over those who falter, he corrects those who stray; in short, he looked at Peter and immediately his sin went away, his denial was put out of mind, his confession followed.

11/22/2011 04:24:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

John, truly, better late than never.

11/22/2011 05:51:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

julie, Magnus, and Ben. Thanks for the healing wishes. Magnus, yes I'm using 'cousin' in a very loose sense here but given Norway's small population, we are probably more related than any other random pair of Raccoons I'm guessing.

Mizz E. Thanks for the rooster info. I'm less inclined to want to kill ours when he wakes me in the middle of the night.

Like our KT (known troll) William, I too am in my early 50's and am delaying my inevitable decay through much exercise, in my case, uncompetitive weight lifting. Let's just say I think I have found my maximum lifts for squats and dead lift. Man, I feel like I'm in my 80s today!

11/22/2011 06:01:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

:)
Nothing wrong with exercising and doing whatever you need to in order to be healthy as long as possible. I'll probably go that route, too, since the alternative given my family history is to gain weight, get diabetic, and become an amputee. To the extent that I can prevent that outcome, I will do what it takes. On the other hand, I'm not bothered by simply getting older, and of course for all that man plans, god still laughs...

11/22/2011 09:50:00 AM  

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