When I was young I used to worry about falling asleep.  It would literally keep me up at night.  I didn’t understand what being unconscious meant, so I imagined that I would still be aware of myself, just not moving for eight hours. This seemed like a tremendous waste of time, and I hated wasting time when I was young.  Sleeping meant I wasn’t reading comic books or playing with Lego or watching TV.  I thought sleep would be like having to lie still for eight hours at a time.  I couldn’t imagine anything more boring.  And even though that’s not what sleep was like at all, I kept being afraid of it.  This fear of sleep seemed to plague me for a large period of my youth, and may have been tied in to my obsession with death.  I tried to figure out what happened when you died, and I can remember that I didn’t really think–even at that young age–that you’d go to heaven.  Instead I usually tried to imagine what nothingness would be like.  Even then I’d started to believe that nothing happened to you after you died–no heaven, no hell–you just ceased to be active (much like I imagined sleep).  But if you believe the afterlife is nothing, what is nothing like?  It’s hard to imagine not existing anymore, so I would imagine a kind of void which contained me and nothing else.  But that’s not really nothingness–that is in fact existence in its purest form, the continuance of the only thing anyone can truly say exists with any authority, your Self.  The rest of the universe may melt away, and the mind can deal with that, because it’s easy to lose the sense of the faraway–tell someone that the Crab Nebula no longer exists, and what impact does that really have on their life or sense of place in the universe? Even tell them that China is no longer there, and they’ll adjust, because after all China for most people is just an abstract concept–something they’ve read about, seen on TV, maybe even met someone who says they’re from there, but never experienced personally. Keep drawing the circle in tighter and people will learn to accept the loss of things they were truly never sure about in the first place–Rio de Janeiro, that great souvlaki place across town, the emotional state of their closest friends–until the last thing that will remain and be held on to with the greatest possible tenacity is the Self.  It’s the one thing we imagine we can be sure about, even if when we’re being truly honest we realize that even our Selves can be mysteries to us.

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