SPIRITUAL SOAP: Weird & Güd - Sleepwalkers, Sleepstalkers
Sleep: the poor man's psychotherapy.
Before we were The Black Sheep, we were a newsletter named Spiritual Soap. Please enjoy this article from our history!
I enjoy research too much and I’m a shameless critic. Weird & Güd is the conjoining of those misanthropic qualities into something useful: recommendations and fascinations neatly packaged together for you every week, no insomnia required.
Which is more difficult, to awaken one who sleeps or to awaken one who, awake, dreams that he is awake? — Kierkegaard
John Everett Millais, The Somnambulist, 1871
Sleepwalking — While it’s been a weird thing all on its own for centuries, sleepwalking points us towards something much weirder. Infamous cases of homicidal sleepwalking, sexsomnia, and even sleep art all belie the same weird truth — we are never simply awake nor asleep. Sleep and wakefulness are two ends of the same river — though different, their waters can never be separated.
A sleepwalker navigates their physical world while remaining unconscious and unaware of their true reality — they project an imagined reality onto the world and react to this fantasy. Freud naturally went wild here; he theorized that sleepwalkers were driven by unfulfilled sexual energy and a desire to once again sleep in our childhood bed.
Those times you’ve stayed up too late to recognize your own mind are the opposite of sleepwalking. In sleep deprivation, awake though you seem, you are literally half-asleep. During local sleep, groups of neurons nap and appear just as they would during normal sleep, yet you remain outwardly awake. To complicate consciousness further, as your work becomes increasingly unappealing, those napping neurons sync up and create an instant of microsleep — a moment of full-on sleep you rarely notice. You believe you’re conscious and yet, for that moment, you’re wrong.
The meshing of conscious & unconscious in sleepwalking has made us as uncomfortable as this woman’s face does since basically forever.
Édouard Rosset-Granger, La Somnambule, 1895
Sleep brings us to confront a consciousness more complex than black or white, asleep or awake. Sleepwalking is a biological poem that warns us one can live with eyes open, seemingly awake, and yet exist in nothing but an unconscious realm of dreams.
We are all haunted houses. — H. D.
Solaris, Sleep, & Psychoanalysis — Today I woke up heavy like a ragdoll filled with stones, a weight holding me in bed. Some days sleep is the mother that drags me away from the playground — I can’t get too little. Here, the boat moves dangerously fast through uncharted waters. Some days sleep is my favorite food; I eat it just for the taste, no hunger left to satiate. Here, I know it’s time to sturdy the boat for coming storms.
Sleep is human culture — we all sleep, whether too much, too little, at strange hours, punctuated by medical issues or perfectly sound, on sidewalks or 1,800 thread count sheets. Sleep is simultaneously common and compelling, no different than birth, death, and life itself.
From Don Quixote: “…So long as I am asleep I have neither fear nor hope, trouble nor glory…the cloak that covers over all a man’s thoughts, the food that removes hunger, the drink that drives away thirst, the fire that warms the cold, the cold that tempers the heat…the weight and balance that makes the shepherd equal with the king and the fool with the wise man. Sleep, I have heard say, has only one fault, that it is like death; for between a sleeping man and a dead man there is very little difference."
To sleep is to visit an unlivable realm, to taste the un-being from the security of being. I listen to my sleep. Today it yelled, “Too much, too much.” It kicked me out of hiding like a malingering patient seeking sympathy in place of strength. Sleep is a language for the wordless parts of our minds. It is the uncanny, Freud’s category for what lives between real and unreal, benign and disturbing. What apparitions, what new worlds find you in sleep?
In Solaris, Tarkovsky takes up Stanisław Lem’s fear that humans are too eager to venture into outer space without having explored their own inner space, the parts of the self that can remain as dark as the deepest ocean floor. In the film, a sleep-deprived Snaut says “We want to extend the Earth to the borders of the cosmos. We don’t know what to do with other worlds. We don’t need other worlds. We need a mirror.” Sleep is the portal through which each character’s so-called visitors, the projections of some hidden corner of their minds, manifest and confront them in reality.
Sleep can speak to us. It is the vessel by which we explore unknown lands and the tool by which we ground ourselves in known lands. What do we run from when we run to or away from sleep? We forget that sometimes we can’t see until our eyes have shut.
The unexplored territory that requires no vessel or science to uncover, but daunts us all the same.
I hope this makes your week a little weirder and a little güder. Now go forth, be weird, and above all, be güd.
I sit alone at a desk biting my nails to bring you every edition of Spiritual Soap. Is it worth it? Don’t tell me, show me.