Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Miners and Us

Picture yourself thousands of feet below the earth's surface, surrounded by darkness and without nourishment, confined and cut off from loved ones — indeed, from the entire world.

And then imagine — as the miners surely hoped with all their might would happen to them — being rescued from the depths, hoisted to the surface once again into the light and fresh air, into the presence of family and friends. Imagine laying eyes on familiar things again, the sun, the sky, the faces. Imagine the gratitude that would swell any human heart at such a moment.

And then consider that each of us undergoes a similar experience each and every day.

We wake up in the morning.

It's not only the fact that in sleep we are not conscious, not in control, or that people can and do die in their sleep; or even that sleep, like death, is insistent, and will only be postponed so long. The rabbis of the Talmud said something more; they considered sleep itself to be a virtual microcosm of death — "one sixtieth" of it, in their turn of phrase and thought.

I wonder if anything comparable is to be found in the Church Fathers. I've only read a little Augustine, but I don't recall him talking about sleep.

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