Rendered Fat Content


Salvador Dali:
Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second before Waking (1944)
"On weekends I dream my Second Sleep dreams with Max The Monster Cat kneading on my shoulder."

In centuries before industrialization and time regulation, when darkness and fire dominated every evening, people allocated their time differently than we do today. Then, most were, indeed, up with the chickens and down shortly after supper, but most maintained a second period of which they also made productive use. Most did not sleep twelve hours each night. They'd rouse in what we'd refer to as the middle of their night, get dressed, maybe snack or even go visiting neighbors. After two or three stolen hours, they'd tumble back into bed and catch a few last zzzzzzs before rising again with the chickens. They called that second snooze 'SecondSleep', and it's something we lost when we domesticated ourselves into nine-to-fives separated by commutes, when we abandoned the sun standard for time, and when we began staying up to watch the late news before bed.

That period between first and second sleep was more private than daytime wakefulness.
It was dark, remember, and a hassle to produce light. Firewood had to be carted and lamp oil acquired. That time quite naturally seemed more precious, stolen as it was from the heart of darkness. People would read and contemplate, talk and pontificate, even make love. Suspended where watchful eyes couldn't penetrate, a person could perhaps practice being who they really were without any critics observing the performance. Secrets could be exchanged, and promises. I imagine engaging then both as if everything mattered and also as if nothing did, as if everything was either deep background or officially off the record. Modernity brought different habits.

From where does that connection emerge, though? That connection between a fellow's body and his soul. That link between what he does, what he thinks, and what he feels? First Sleep extinguished exhaustion. It repaired the damage wakefulness inflicted. It turned off switches. Dreaming then seemed more like cleaning up than like refurbishing. It might patch a hole but not usually create any masterpieces. First Sleep served as maintenance. SecondSleep was distinctly different both in purpose and practice. SecondSleep dreams were the ones remembered, since they came nearer to regaining full, sunlight-enhanced wakefulness. They also came to a mind refreshed from that reflective middle of the night experience, freshly read, freshly fed, perhaps freshly bedded, the mind came prepared to properly witness the grand performance, the artificer of their future in action, their fortune teller's allegories revealed to them at last. One woke from SecondSleep not merely refreshed, but freshly enlightened, inspired, encouraged.

Our Grand Refurbishing has disrupted my curious sleep schedule. I still rise at an indecent middle of the night hour to reflect and write, but the craftsmen start arriving at seven thirty and I feel that I need to be ready to great them and to contribute my part, mostly to keep them from having to perform trivial tasks like fetching supplies or emptying garbage. My SecondSleep has been taking short shrift these past two months. It's usually deferred into a stolen mid-afternoon nap, by which time I'm often cranky and exhausted so that my SecondSleep then, such as it is, contributes more maintenance than enlightenment. I feel like the opposite of a Connecticut Yankee In Kind Arthur's Court, but an Arthurian-period courtier propelled forward into Yankee Connecticut. The time period, or the way I've been parsing it, just doesn't fit very well at present. I seem a zombie in the morning having missed my inspiring Second Sleep, and a zombie in the evening, too, ready to fall into my well-earned First Sleep before it gets too late to wake in time for my irreplaceable middle of the night reflection time. On weekends I dream my SecondSleep dreams into the morning with Max The Monster Cat kneading on my shoulder.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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