Doug Bruns

When the animals come for you.

In Life on March 20, 2012 at 6:59 am

The sun rises around 6:45. I’ve enjoyed it recently over several consecutive mornings, coming up over Bug Light and illuminating the river Fore. I’ve also seen the darkness that precedes sunrise by several hours, as I’ve had trouble sleeping. Up at three or four seems to be the course these days. So disconcerting is this that I’ve resorted to writing Twitter poems during these hours. Poems of 140 characters or less. I wrote this one yesterday:

Of the things I’m losing | Memory | Energy | Money | Sleep is most | Mourned

I am suffering from what my Buddhist friends call Monkey Mind. I wake up at three or four in the morning and my mind bolts upright, as if fully caffeinated and, like a monkey, starts swinging tree to tree, thought to thought, terror to terror. All night troubles become night terrors.

This seems a special plague, as I’m not troubled really. My mind though, like a thing out of control, is searching for trouble. I would say, Better my mind than my body, but the mind is more the master, the body the servant. The body can be disciplined but it’s tough to usurp the master.

My mother used to get up early, awakened by the rumblings of her mind. She was deeply religious. She said she was getting “the calling,” like an early morning telegraph from God. I have no religious leanings, and am hearing no call. I remember discovering years ago that many men–it is always men–come to farming late in life after getting a call to till the soil. I don’t like dirt under my fingernails so I’m certain I’m not being called to farm.

Evolution probably has something to do with it. I can’t help but think that night alerts played a large role in the success of the species. The fire gone out, the tribe asleep, as one individual wakes up, attuned to something amiss. Night is when the animals come for you. Night terror was then truly terror, no doubt. That is a type of calling too.

Mark Twain said he was never quite sane in the night. This gives me comfort, as I feel so out of sorts as to be somewhat insane too. It is not a good place to be and my compassion for those afflicted has risen as a result. “Wait until it is night before saying that it has been a fine day,” the French say and never was that more true than these nights–or, rather, mornings.

The night path is full of obstacles. I’ve grown to shuffling my feet on the path and as I trip over something, I pick it up and examine it. I study it and weigh it, then examine it all over again. Only upon daybreak do I see it to be nothing more than a pebble. But in the night it certainly is a boulder.

I don’t know what to make of this, another in a list of growing unknow-ables. It is a point of reflection, something to ponder–until night fall. Then the animals come for me.

  1. The description of your mind searching for trouble reminded me of an essay in Sunday’s NYT….”The Doctor of Dread,” by Gordon Marino, discussing Kierkegaard’s “chronic, disquieting feeling that something not so good was about to happen.” You are in good company, Doug.

    The author surmises that in anxiety we come to understand we are free, “that the possibilities are endless.” If a speaker were to say to Kierkegaard that he has never been in anxiety, K. would provide the explanation: “that is because he is very spiritless.”

    Anxiety can be a teacher or, at other times, a form of surgery, says K. He joins the Buddhists in his prescription to “‘Stay with the feeling’ of anxiety, it will spirit away our finite concerns and educate us as to who we really are. According to Kierkegaard, anxiety like nothing else brings home the lesson that I cannot look to others, to the crowd, when I want to measure my progress in becoming a full human being.”

    Maybe your recent musings about authenticity are merging with the night animals. Despite the discomfort of the sleeplessness, you may be onto an interesting train of thought (I almost said an interesting “path” or , worse yet, “journey”, but that would be as junky as, “Everything happens for a reason.”)

    The concept of ‘staying with the feeling’ agrees with me, but I find it as difficult to accomplish as taming the monkey-mind. I have begun (again) writing down dreams in an effort to understand my unconscious. Thus far, all I have discovered is that my unconscious continuously feels unprepared. I consulted with an astrologer.

    Ponder on, Doug! And share. We blog-readers entertain similar ideas which are frequently left untapped without a triggering mechanism.

    • S ~ Thanks for reading and, as always, your insightful and appreciated ponderings. I have avoided Kierkegaard, as I’ve avoided Schopenhauer, for years. I’m not sure why, exactly. In both cases fear of their dread hangs heavy. I went through an intense phase of philosophical inquiry many years ago and the deeper I dug the more freighted I became, depressed and manic. There is that part of me scared of that territory. But K has been suggested so many times over the years for reasons as you point out: the value of his conclusion toward endless possibilities. I’m working on an extended essay to fill out an idea I talked about in a previous post, this business of reading the right books knowing that I’m going to die and wanting to read the right ones. (I think it’s that mid-western ethic in me.) I must put K & S into the mix. That will be heavy…
      I saw the piece in the Times, but now that I think on it, never got around to reading. Note to self: Read article on line. Thanks!
      I look forward to our continued and engaging conversations.

  2. Doug-
    This certainly connects.
    Reading provides me temporal relief from night-time Monkey Mind, but I’ve read somewhere (here?) that Einstein feared too much reading sapped our ability for original thought. An argument for plain old talk.

    • C ~ Thanks for reading and commenting. I don’t recall reading (ironically!) of the Einstein opinion. There is a lot of apocryphal Einstein stuff out there. But a quick google search turned up this quote: “Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.” You are dead on.

      I am reminded of the comment an older neighbor once made of a young well-educated couple on the street: “Those people read too many books.”

      Thanks for the Einstein tip. I’m going to have to think about that. I appreciate you stopping in.

      • Really good point, Craig. I have a long-planned writing project which I keep putting off by using the excuse that I need to read a bit more before tackling it. Always more comfortable to sit in my upholstered reading chair and take in somone else’s wisdom than to approach the hard-backed chair and actually **think**.

        However, given the summer weather those of us in Maine are enjoying today, I think I will follow Einstein’s other piece of advice, avoiding both chairs: I will shake up the creative juices on a walk.

  3. Susan. Go for that walk. That’s when all the magic comes together.

  4. Thank you for these thoughts. I too have suffered with difficulty sleeping through the night and blamed it on menopause and/or age. Quite frustrating buy even more so for those who need to function well at a demanding job.

    Hope you all are well.


  5. […] mentioned in a previous post that I frequently write what I call Twitter poems. I do this to warm up, to get things moving when […]

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