The Puzzle

Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

…”I have often puzzled and puzzled, about what it must be like to go to sleep and never wake up, to be simply not there, forever and ever. After all one has some intimation of this, by the interval that separates going to sleep from waking, when we don’t have any dreams but go to sleep, and then suddenly we’re there again, and in the interim, you have nothing. And if there was never any end to that interval, if the waking up didn’t happen, that’s such a curious thought. And yet you know…although that’s rather a gloomy kind of consideration, I found it’s one of the most creative thoughts I ever thought in my life.” ~ Alan Watts

Well, it is a proper gloomy prospect isn’t it, to ‘go to sleep and never wake up’, but one that (despite my own fairly advanced plans) none of us can escape.  That final ‘going to sleep’ is coming to us all and we are all, to some degree or another, afraid of it.  It is unknown, and we all fear the unknown.  Death is the greatest unknown: no-one has ever come back to tell us about it.  (Is there a decent take-away, do the window cleaners leave streaks, are the supermarkets always one item short of a full Meal Deal, is your Broadband connection at anything like the advertised speed?)  I realise that many of you will feel that what happens after death is anything but unknown and that one very particular person has, indeed, returned from it in the past to fill us all in on its merits, and I totally respect that certainty – in truth I envy it – but I do not share it.  What most of us fear about the eternal sleep is not the fact that we will not wake from it; it is the ‘nothing’ we fear.  An eternity of nothing.  It is not even the idea of doing nothing (I’m already pretty good at that) but the idea that we will not be aware of the fact that we are doing nothing.

Albert Einstein assured us (although he too has not returned to prove the point) that energy cannot be destroyed, but is merely sent somewhere else: movement becomes friction, friction becomes heat, heat becomes convection and convection becomes rain – mostly rain.  Ultimately, energy is always wet.  Now, often (although now I come to think about it, rather less often these days) I am full of energy and when I eventually enter that long goodnight, it all has to go somewhere doesn’t it?  Following the irrefutable British logic that eventually everything becomes rain then it is likely that (providing we have not allowed them all to be cut down) we are all destined to become ‘tree’ – which, intriguingly leads to the possibility that many of us will also become ‘coffin’.

This, I am sure – particularly if Walt Disney becomes involved – forms part of the Circle of Life: the Semi-Circle of Life perhaps, because in order to be a circle, things have to end where they begin, don’t they, and the progress from coffin to sentient being is a rather more difficult one to plot – although given the amount of alcohol that is, on occasion, consumed at a funeral wake could almost certainly result in a lack of inhibition that… well, these things happen, don’t they, and babies can result.  How the energy gets from the coffin to the procreation is anybody’s guess, but I assume that gin is involved.

No wonder Mr Watts found this thought to be an incredibly ‘creative’ one.  Just imagine that every day, in the interval between sleep and waking, that the ‘nothingness’ you experience makes you both a tree and a parent to a child with whom you have no physical connection.  That really is something to puzzle over isn’t it, although, probably not something to die for…

10 thoughts on “The Puzzle

  1. This is a very interesting matter that I have considered at length. When I was young the whole thing frightened me but somehow as I’ve got older it is much less so. When the great “night night” happens I shall cease to be who I currently am and I doubt very much there will be any great reunions on the other side. There is a lot going on besides us and we have no hope of being able to comprehend it. In a way I think it must be a great release to shed one’s body, especially a body that has become decrepit, but, well…just have to wait and see, only it won’t be me who gets to see….this is where it all starts going in circles. Do you ever wonder if maybe we are just someone’s board game?

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