We live in the cell phone age and there are hidden advantages that the young, exchanging last year’s model for this, will never fully understand until they, too, are much older.
With the push of a button, held in for five seconds, the phone will go off at night, and since no one any longer has a landline, you are assured that no one will drag you from sleep to announce they are able to extend the warranty on a car you sold two years ago, or to say that a friend or relative has died, and denying death night hours is the closest thing you can do to feel that you are in control of anything.
The perfect time of day occurs only as the dead of night approaches, that moment when the heart of the city falls almost silent.
In smaller cities this moment is protracted, arising as the moon reaches toward full expression and such as pass for tall buildings settle into sleep.
In the great cities, those that claim never to sleep, the city reverberates, echoing off the endless walls of glass, and silence never fully arrives, so we cling to moments that approximate what we imagine silence sounds like.
It is easier to think about death on a wintery evening, when so much of life slips into stasis, and there is nothing to do but concede your mortality, and with good fortune, then slip into sleep before being lost in a sea of depression.
I must be thankful for my dreams for they keep the night from becoming the little death of the ancient philosophers, and on awakening in the morning, the mantle of snow that has painted the world in a glittering white, does not demand the shovel as yet, but celebrates the world’s rebirth, and with a nod to the sun, my own.
On the razor edge of dreams the periphery of consciousness a face appears, and I am left to wonder who this person is, who he might be. At first he is a child with a pixie cut, a bowl placed over the head, the bangs cut without considering the face peering out and others peering in. But, as sleep washing the last sands of consciousness out to the sea of Morpheus, the face morphs and it is Science Officer Spock who is peering back at me, his ears pointed to the heavens reminding me, as I slip into Morpheus’ orbit that I can yet live long and prosper.
The dream came to him again last night. He could never be certain if it was on the barren high mesa outside Taos or in the endless sands of Morocco. It really didn’t matter, since the action of the dream took place in a restaurant, and its location was ambiance, although he suspected it did have some deeper psychological meaning. In the dream he was grating cheese, when he awoke, nervous. Try though he knew he wouldn’t slip back into sleep until he determined if he was grating Roquefort or Gorgonzola, and he knew the cows would be soon enough calling him to the barn for the morning milking.
Are you serious? You have the temerity to ask me if I am sleeping? Seriously? If, for a moment, you thought that I was sleeping, why in hell would you jostle me and then ask me if I was sleeping? And how many times do I have to tell you that I never liked the name John. I am Jack and you know damned well that is what I want to be called, by everyone. It is not that hard. Here’s a hint, I was sleeping until you woke me. You realize if we weren’t family what I would be doing to you right now. But mom and dad would have a fit, so just consider yourself lucky, but know that someday I will get even with you. Remember I was there when you were a baby, so I have seen it all. And if the bells didn’t wake me, why should I care if they are ringing? Answer me that. Now go away, preferably forever.
Approach the master sitting on his seat. The fool will seek answers having slept through the lesson but the wise student will bow silently and retreat having learned all there is and knowing absolutely nothing.
A reflection on case 44 of Dogen’s True Dharma Eye Koans