The Realm of Wake and the Realm of Sleep

Ethan Goffman
Eons ago, when humanity had just emerged from the womb of a rather pretentious ape, there were two realms: the Realm of Wake and the Realm of Sleep.  Humans dwelt exclusively in the land of wake, hunting and fishing, gathering roots and berries day after day. During the long nights, humans solved logic problems to prepare for the technological future that is our destiny, the pinnacle of our success and glory that will bring about our extinction along with a million species.

In that dawn era, beings dwelt in the land of sleep, not quite shadow beings, human yet not human. Unencumbered by the laws of physics, they flitted about in a surreal multiscape where time and space were fluid, altering partly through individual whim, partly through group desire, partly through a mysterious third force unnamed to this day (though some may call it god, spiritual essence, or dark matter).  These dream humans created language, told stories, wrote poetry, sang songs, painted shifting landscapes, sculpted creatures that came alive, performed plays, all with no progression or logic, no theme rising to a climax. In these proto-arts, events, sounds, and feelings were strewn about at random, ghouls, eerie noises, and sewage smells appearing alongside dandelions, angels, and soaring hymns. Morality was never judged and the same being could easily do good one moment and harm the next. Identity itself could alter from instant to instant and time itself could easily flow backward or sideways, dripping away into space or returning as a fifth, sixth, or seventeenth dimension.

One day a human, tired of the Realm of Wake and curious about what lay beyond, undertook an epic journey across a treacherous landscape and then, in a small boat, over a tempestuous sea, to find the Realm of Sleep. Meanwhile, as if a twin, a being from the Realm of Sleep undertook a reverse journey across abstract floating landscapes filled with ever-shifting impressions and found herself encumbered, as she approached the outermost edge of the Realm of Wake, by the need to take physical steps, increasingly heavy. More and more, she felt ravaged by the slowing crawl of time, which dripped on her like some preternatural superglue. All previous incursions from the Realm of Sleep had been quickly abandoned because, after all, who would choose to be bound by the laws of space and time?  For an inexplicable reason, some quirk of will, this being did not turn back, perhaps intrigued by the realization that challenges can be overcome with individual determination, that she could build something called character, a quality not experienced in the Realm of Sleep.

Some call the first man brave enough to breach the Realm of Sleep Adam and the woman from that distant land Eve.  Feminists decry this, claiming it reduces women to lesser beings, shadowy, amoral, lacking rationality. Some militant feminists challenge the first group of feminists, claiming the Realm of Sleep as superior, as that which generates creativity, just as only women can bear children, the ultimate creative act. In any case, the story of Adam and Eve is reductive, as are all attempts to reduce the story of humanity, to make it understandable, to contain form and meaning. In a sense, even writing these words is futile, as is poring over the Bible, the Koran, or the Bhagavad Gita.

Reader, you know the rest and experience it every day. It is your life, the surreal creative and the rational bound together in one body, one variegated mind, more powerful together than chocolate and peanut butter, yet more ephemeral. It is your gift and your curse.

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