Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I Can't Sleep

Sorry for the lack of posts in the last couple days (though some of you may have been thinking something along the lines of, Thank God). It's almost 3:00 AM here in Barcelona, and I can't sleep. This is the second time this has happened this week, and the first time kept me up almost until 5:00. Needless to say, I hope that doesn't happen again.

For those that don't know, our piso is at a fairly major intersection as far as Gracia goes. To make things more interesting, the plaça you see in the map is undergoing very major construction at the moment. They're tearing up the streets, putting most of them underground, and adding a new metro line that will be the longest in Europe. As such, the difference between sounds at night and sounds during the day makes for a pretty stark contrast. During the day there is heavy machinery, sirens, traffic, and people going about their daily lives. Right now, all I can hear is the occasional vehicle moving down Travessera de Dalt and the church bells as they toll the hours. No music (I don't want to wake Susie, who's sleeping right next to me), just the peace of night.

I love the night. Night is when all things are possible, when you can be alone with your thoughts, free to examine reality as you see it. I don't think I've ever had a deep conversation that I've recalled years and years later or an insight so profound that it shaped my core beliefs that didn't come at night. Who I am and what I believe are shaped by my thoughts drifting through the darkness of night, lying in bed rummaging around in my head or sitting at my desk at Knox, wrestling with a paper. That's what I miss about Knox more than anything. Sure, I miss the people and the experiences. I miss choir and Sigma Nu. I miss sitting on the Gizmo patio in the fall with hot chocolate. But what I miss more than anything is sitting in my room, at my desk, wrestling with topics that meant more to me than the three or five or ten pages I was asked to contribute. Is morality objective? Does life have meaning? Does it matter? Is there a god? These were questions for the night; questions that sent me down to the Pepsi machine long after the rest of the house had gone to bed. That was the experience that made me see the value of higher education.

I still have questions for the night, but I feel like I don't know how to ask anymore. I want to probe the depths of what the night has to offer, but how? Have I lost touch with what made inquiry so rewarding? I have to ask, yes, but my asking feels incomplete if I don't know how to formulate an answer.

For example, every few months, I find myself having what I've come to term as "the existential crisis", which forces me lie awake and ask, "Is this all there is?" Not in the sense that I'm unhappy with what I have or where I'm going, but in the sense that Shakespeare wrote about when Hamlet said, "To die, to sleep;/No more." What if we die and that's it? Did our life have meaning? Does it continue to have meaning in any real sense? What evidence do we use to point us towards a meaningful answer? Is this all a cruel cosmic joke? This reared its head a couple weeks after we got here and has given me pause because, for the first time, I feel like I'm getting somewhere with the question. It's not even something that people have never considered - I'm hardly Wittgenstein writing the Tractalus here. But I have to ask and I have to know because, to my mind, no other question can be answered in toto until this is put to rest. Yes, we can (and I do) formulate good enough working theses on life that keeps me from living as a recluse until the question is solved, but I need to know, and night is the time that lets me ponder and probe the depths seeking the truth.

I don't know if I know the answer. I don't know if we can know the answer. All I know is I love the night for what it gives: a chance to seek the truth.

P.S. It is now quarter to four.

1 comment:

Dan said...

I agree wholeheartedly Jake. My post about October had that same thing in mind: the idea of sitting with your thoughts and working things out.

Good luck getting to sleep in your piso!

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