Why do we sleep? More interestingly, why do we dream? If fortunate, we spend 1/3 of our lives captive in a state in which we are unable to purposefully interact with our tangible surroundings! One Third!
Or maybe that’s not true at all. Maybe when we sleep it’s like coming up for air after being submerged for a long time deep in the ocean, and dreams happen when we open our eyes above the surface. Maybe we sleep and dream because otherwise, we would drown in the fantasy of day-to-day life…
Researchers, biologists, military Q’s and the like have many of their own theories on the purpose behind why we all turn to useless slabs of drooling meat each day. Of course, there are the known side effects from sleep deprivation which range from irritability to inability to concentrate, right up to hallucinations and Bat Shit Craziness as in this The Atlantic article by Seth Maxon. Yet, that still doesn’t explain why sleeping and dreaming is needed to keep your marbles all in the same place. Recently, it was also discovered that toxins Occupying your brain are flushed while you snooze as your brain cells shrink to make way for the biological fire hoses. I’m no neuroscientist, but I would imagine it would be difficult to think with shrunken brain cells if that process happened during waking hours. This starts to approach a reason behind why we psychologically need sleep, but still doesn’t explain all of the weird surrounding sleep and dreaming.
Like, for example, did you know you can problem-solve in your sleep?! In this Livescience article, studies are highlighted in which students solved math problems in their dreams. It goes on to submit that problem solving while asleep is a rather common occurrence documented throughout history and it can sometimes solve problems our awoken mind cannot. Psychologist Deirdre Barrett’s hypothesis boils down to dream as a thinking tool which takes advantage of looser, sometimes less logical connections of dots …because sometimes our brains work best when we are not in full, conscious control of how we use them… because sometimes they work best when we are not behind the wheel… But then, who or what is behind the wheel?
My imagination conjures a strange answer to all these questions and the seed of it lies in the Christian lens through which I perceive all things. There are over 100 instances of variants of the word “dream” in the bible, and God uses dreams to: convey information — “But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife,” –Genesis 20:3 (“she already got a man!”); to piss other people off — “And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more,” –Genesis 37:5; to freak people out — “Then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions,” –Job 7:14; to speak directly to prophets — “…if there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream,” –Numbers 12:6, and a bunch of other stuff. Mix that with: “…the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,” –Genesis 1:2, and “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters,” –Genesis 1:6 and we get to the point where my brain starts coming up with weird shit.
So, God uses dreams for a variety of communications with man, and the Spirit of God dwelled on the surface of the waters in the beginning. That water was separated between aboveness and belowness by a gigundous gap. We live in the below part separated from the water above. Does the part of God’s spirit in the above part perhaps meet us halfway when he wants to drive an idea home? Do our spirits get pulled into that limbo while we sleep by His messengers who have the ability to traverse that separation? Do we get a chance for part of our daily life to press our hands up to the glass of that divide as if a prison visitation to find our bearings again? Does God sometimes or always reach out to touch the other side of that divide? …much like Michelangelo’s famous painting on the Sistine Chapel?
I don’t know. But it’s kind of a neat idea, don’t you think? I picture it with God’s messengers, naked and pure as children, hauling the man they’ve been given charge of into that meeting place… whether we sleep peacefully or whether we are towed into that limbo still bound by despair, our spirits guarded carefully while allowed a time-out from the most exhausting of races. I picture it just like this, the “Firmament”:
Prints of this piece can be ordered here: The Untapped Source Matting and framing options can be set to “No” to reduce cost substantially.
Special thanks goes out to one little girl’s parental unit who gave me permission to use her as the perfect model I’ve been lacking for the 14 friggin years since I started this composition!