Reading to Sleep

I was reading when I had to stop and think about what I’d just read. Oh, it wasn’t anything important, not one of the issues of the day or the eternal questions, just a silly thing, really. In the story, a mother read her child to sleep. It’s a common thing, for sure, but suddenly, it struck me as all wrong. By reading to children until they fall asleep, it makes sense that it would give them a love of stories and perhaps help them develop the habit of reading, but just as often, wouldn’t it tell youngsters that books are boring? That they are a soporific, not an intrinsic part of one’s day?

My parents didn’t read us to sleep, but I do remember my mother reading to me once when I was sick. (“The Land of Counterpane” from A Child’s Garden of Verses.) I’m sure she read to us at other times, just as I read to my younger siblings, but it was never at night. I realize one example does not prove a point, but I am a reader and my parents never read me to sleep. Coincidence? Who knows.

On the other hand, but still on the subject of reading to sleep (which is what I do, come to think of it — read myself to sleep — but then, I also read myself awake, read while I eat, read while I wait, read while I think), I wonder if that learned tendency to fall asleep when reading is why so many books promise to keep you awake all night or at least until you finish the book. (I also wonder how that sales technique works with insomniacs since so many find reading an effective sleep aid.) The truth probably has to do with the plethora of boring books. I tend to fall asleep even in a bright afternoon if the book is boring enough. So saying that a book will keep you awake is just another way of saying that the book isn’t boring. But boring is in the eyes — and mind — of the reader; one person’s thriller is another person’s yawner.

It’s funny, now that I think about it, that such an intellectual activity as reading has become so intrinsically entwined with both falling asleep and not falling asleep. I wonder why that is. Maybe I need to add that query to the list of eternal questions, such as the meaning of life, if the dead still exist, and where consciousness came from.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

The Internet is My Tranquilizer

I read an amusing, beautiful, and wise article on Malcolm’s Round Table yesterday: The Internet is Drugs.

Malcolm R. Campbell wrote: As I sit here in the sunny kitchen of my father-in-law’s farmhouse, I’m going through withdrawal because the Internet does not exist here. On a typical morning, I would have checked e-mail (pot), looked at several news screens (cocaine) and read everything in my Facebook (meth) news feed.

My Facebook status would be a no-brainer: blitzed, spaced out, and higher than the summit of Mount Everest. I recall those old, fried-egg-in-a-skillet public service announcements: This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions? [Click here to read the rest of the article.]

Malcolm makes the very good point that on the internet, everything is instant gratification, whereas on the farm, everything moves slower, can’t move at the speed of light from one location to another, can’t give you the drug-like gratification one gets from the internet.

For me, the internet is a tranquilizer. It’s a quiet place (since the sound on my computer is turned off), and it quiets my mind. Grief brought me much confusion, not only because of the pain of losing my life mate/soul mate and the loneliness of struggling on by myself, but because of the eternal questions that haunt me.

A couple of days ago I wrote about the physiological changes that grief brings (Grief and Our Lizard Brain). Besides these physiological disturbances and the more commonly known psychological anguish, people who lose a life mate are subject to spiritual and philosophical traumas that upset our normal way of thinking. Death gives life a whole new perspective, and so we are compelled to rethink everything we thought we knew, everything we held dear. Some people find a deeper comfort in religion while others are assailed by new doubts. I found myself with a multitude of questions.

Who am I now that I am no longer part of our survival unit? If he is in a better place, why am still here? If life is a gift, why was it taken from him? In the presence of life, what is the meaning of death? In the presence of death, what is the meaning of life? So many questions!

Yet on the internet, there is no question of who am I. I know who I am. I can see me on Facebook. I can Google me. I can check me out on my website, on my publisher’s website, on Amazon. And I know why I’m here. I’m here to make an impression so maybe people will read my blogs and perhaps buy my books. I don’t need to question the meaning of life and death, because the internet is eternal. (Or at least the electrons are.) As long as there is an internet, there I am.

Walking out in the desert in the real world brings a semblance of peace, but along with that peace come the questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What is the meaning of life and death? Where do I go from here?

As my grief fades a bit, some of the bigger questions are fading, too, and I’m mostly left with the last question. Where do I go from here? On the internet, I am always “here.” In real life, I will need to relocate, to find a place to start over. But that question, for now, is as unanswerable as all the others that haunt me, so here I am, on the internet, where there is an answer for everything. And if there isn’t, I’m too tranquilized to care.