HERE'S a disturbing thought that occurs to me once in a while: that sleep is death. Let me explain.
What am 'I'? What is it that looks out through my eyes, that moves my hands on the keyboard? It is a consciousness, and a continuing stream of physical sensation, that we call a human personality. Each of us has one, each slightly different. That consciousness is critically dependant on the physical integrity of the brain. Give the brain a hard enough whack, and the consciousness disappears: whatever 'I' am, is gone, at least for the moment. But where does it 'go'?
It doesn't 'go' anywhere, of course, anymore than your fist 'goes' somewhere when you spread your fingers, or a candle flame 'goes' somewhere when you blow it out. These things are also patterns, dependant on the physical state of matter: the fist is a description of the spatial configuration of fingers, the candle flame appears only when volatile gasses released by heated paraffin rapidly oxidize, melting more paraffin in turn, so as to sustain itself. Both are 'real' as anything. A fist can do things an open hand can't. A candle flame will burn you if you get to close. But neither is a physical object; neither is matter, but rather a pattern that matter is cast into, like the play of a fountain. Turn it off, and the fountain disappears, even though all the parts that created it, the water, the basin, the jets, and so on, are present.
Examine a man immediately after he is dead, and he seems still to be intact. All the parts are present (unless he has been vaporized by a nuclear weapon). But the 'person' is gone, the pattern cast by his brain and body, that we called 'him' no longer exists.
Besides death and concussion, human consciousness disappears on a fairly frequent basis: every night, in fact, when you fall asleep. If there is a loud noise, or someone shakes your body, 'you' will 'awake'. But what really happens when your body wakes? Your brain generates a new consciousness. It's not as if you 'come back'; you haven't gone anywhere. You have, in essence been destroyed when you fell asleep: your continuing consciousness and memory had been eradicated, leaving only the physical brain and its vegetative functions. Or perhaps you have been replaced in your body by a new, different person: the one who dreams. When it comes time to awake, your body abruptly kills the dreamer, and regenerates the waking 'you' again.
Is it the same 'you' who fell asleep? I don't think so. No one would ever call the sunset we watch tonight the 'same' sunset that we watched last night, even though it's the same sun and the same earth. Yesterday's sunset is gone forever. Each evening brings a new one. Are you the same 'you' who disappeared last night, when you fell asleep? Or is that 'you' gone forever? Yes, you have your memories, and all, but they reflect the physical structure of the brain, and any consciousness who inhabits that brain, such as the dreaming consciousness, will possess those memories. All 'you' really possess is your consciousness, your self-awareness, your continuing stream of sensation. When that's gone, 'you' are gone. The person who wakes in your body the following morning is a new person, possessed of your memories, your girlfriend, and your checking account, but an imposter, a stranger in your body. But his conquest is short-lived, for that very night, he, too, will be destroyed, only to have a new person created by the brain the following morning.
Thus, a human life is not the life of a unitary self, but rather a progression of selves, one after another, each lasting only a day, each being created on waking, and destroyed at bedtime, each thinking he is the only one, that he is really you, that it is his life that he's living, when fact, he lives no longer than a mayfly, and is fated to be extinguished at the end of each day.
Thus: sleep is death. When a person falls asleep, they die. The body continues, and the memories encoded into its brain tissue continue, so that when the brain generates a new consciousness the next morning, that person thinks he has lived a life lasting years, when in fact he is a brand new creation.
I don't know about you, but I find this a very disturbing thought. It has a Philip K. Dick quality to it, doesn't it?
I have a few more disturbing thoughts relating to this topic, but I'll wait till tomorrow to share them. No, let me put that differently. Someone else will share them with you tomorrow. Someone who inhabits my body, looks out through my eyes, probes his tendrils through my memories, but who is not me, who is a new, different self. I will be going to bed in a few hours, and because of that I will never see you again. I bid all of you farewell. I hope you will welcome the new personality inhabiting this body tomorrow. Please treat him gently.
Because my !*$#&@ ISP Verizon was dead in PA, and parts of NJ, DE, and NY for 24 hours yesterday, I never managed to get on line. Verizon, may the fleas of a thousand camels infest the crotch of your firstborn.
hoka, soto, hazu(su), hazu(reru),
meaning: outside, other, another
gaizin [Hep: gaijin] == foreigner
soto == outside
haha == mother
okaasan == mother (respectful)