Science and Big Pharma continue to seek new ways of letting us get a good night’s sleep. Which is okay. Without at least six hours of sleep per night (or day) the average person may encounter serious physical or emotional problems.
Much less attention is given to the question of achieving full awakeness. One yardstick has been to classify people into three groups: those who are morning people, afternoon people and evening people.
Then there are many persons who are never fully awake. Also scattered about are the narcoleptics, who are subject to sudden, uncontrollable urges to sleep. And let’s not ignore insomniacs, who say they hardly ever sleep.
Dozens of sleep aids exist. But so do methods of increasing a person’s wakefulness. Enthusiasm is a big one. If George loves what he’s doing, he’s probably wide awake. I’ve always suspected that’s the case with many of the rich and successful people we read about. I doubt that they’re always brilliant or supremely talented. Some of them are simply on fire with enthusiasm for their work. They sleep only four or five hours a night, and even then begrudgingly because their minds are focused on their next day’s adventures.
Sexual desire can help keep people awake, but it has fairly limited application to the workaday world. In fact, sexual pursuits can blot out huge chunks of awareness of what’s going on around us. A recent example was all those fellows in and around Jupiter, Florida, who were arrested for engaging in pay-for-play sex with massage staff members. If the johns had been fully awake, they might have noticed the court-authorized cameras recording the festivities.
Fear can generate awakeness. I used to drowse during staff meetings in the corporate world. But not when I worked for Cracker Ed. He was a good old country boy, but he was also smart and mean.
If he noticed someone dozing during a meeting, he might say, “Henry, if you’d like to stretch out here on the boardroom table and snooze for a while before you go and pick up your final paycheck, why, just go ahead.” Those words usually galvanized Henry. And the rest of us.
But fear also can cause drowsiness. It’s not uncommon for someone who’s sick with worry to escape by diving into bed for half a day or more. I think it was Shakespeare (or maybe Oprah Winfrey) who said, “Sleep, that knits up the raveled sleeve of care.”
One of the major roadblocks to psychological or spiritual awakeness is excessive self-concern. It is the endless recurring “What about me?” attitude. It can take the form of selfishness or lack of faith. One of its basic assumptions: “The world is fearsome. People are no good. God doesn’t care about us, and if we don’t look out for ourselves constantly, someone or something is going to harm us.”
As long as we’re in that frightened state of mind we cannot fully tune in to the world and to other people. We stay locked up in a fortress. Or is it a prison?
The most awake, alert, outgoing and alive persons I know are those who are not especially concerned with what’s going to happen to them, either today or for the rest of their lives. They assume that things will work out OK. But even if they don’t, life still won’t be too awful to take.
These people are not so much naive as they are trusting. Some are religious, some are not. Neither age, gender, economic status nor education level seem to have a bearing on their outlook or their level of wakefulness. It may be mainly hereditary. But it’s good to see in action.
It’s possible to measure our individual level of wakefulness. One method was devised in 1978 by professor Jeremy Anschluss of the Fahrtz Institute in Roomwiddaview, England. His system computes a testee’s total volume of wakefulness units, known as wakee-poos. Each testee is seated in a soundproof library room and exposed to an hour-long recording of Henry Kissinger describing the history of Realpolitik from 1920 to 1970.
Every five minutes throughout the lecture the testees are checked for their wakee-poo levels. Anyone still awake at the end of the hour is awarded a brass medallion shaped like an eyeball.
Readers, I hope you possess all the wakefulness you need, wish for or can stand.