Taking advantage of the first warm Saturday of spring, I headed for the park to catch some sun. Not long after I settled in, a woman and her daughter sat at the picnic table next to mine. They systematically placed their lunch on the table and asked me if I cared to Join them. I must have had my indigent look about me.
After lunch the little girl said she was tired and wanted to take her nap. I couldn’t imagine why an energetic child that age wanted to nap rather than play on a beautiful day. The mother explained her daughter had a terrible nightmare and didn’t have a good night’s sleep. All day long she kept asking, “Where do we go when we’re sleeping?” I told the mother asking the question is normal. It’s the first sign of self-realization and it’s a personal subjective thought we all have to deal with in our lives. After 70 years of life, I still remember my nightmare of self-realization.
Every night before I went to sleep, my mother and I knelt beside my bed and recited the prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I shall die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” I never knew what the prayer meant, I just recited the words to please my mother. But one night, before I went to sleep, I started to think about the meaning of the words in the prayer. I became anxious, confused and afraid.
After a while I fell asleep. Later, I woke up screaming in fear and trembling with anxiety. My body was shivering in a cold sweat. I kept asking my father, “What is a soul? Who was the lord and what does it mean to “die before I wake? Am I going to die in my sleep?” And like the little girl, I asked, “Where do I go when I’m sleeping?” I thought I would never sleep again, fearing I’d have another nightmare or die in my sleep.
Growing up during the early 1900s when child labor was allowed, my dad only had a third grade education. But he tried to explain life’s mysteries in a few paragraphs.
He said, “Sleep is part of a circle of awareness. It’s just another form of consciousness we don’t understand or appreciate until we get tired, older and wiser. At one time or another in life most of us experience some form of fear of sleeping. But there isn’t anything to fear about sleeping or dying. You only die once. If you fear death, you die every day of your life.”
As far as soul, the lord and death are concerned, there are two options. You can waste your whole life in fear, searching for answers that don’t exist, or you can live your life as a good, kind, loving, generous, honest and responsible person and the meaning of sleep and death will come to you.
Christian catechism teaches us to fear death at an early age. Churches were built on the foundation of fear, death, the blood sacrifice of Christ and martyrdom of saints. If you’re not subservient to their superstition of God the Father your eternal punishment is sleeping in the raging fire in Hell. It’s a wonder all Christians don’t have nightmares of dying in their sleep.
But is their God our father? What father in his right mind would create children in his cruel image, measure their love for him in blood, threaten to throw them into the flames of Hell and punish them with eternal death if they were not subservient to him? Only the father of Christianity. If any father did that to his children in today’s reality, they would arrest him for child abuse.
Thankfully, my father wasn’t a god. He insulated me from the morbid ceremonies of the church. He taught me human qualities and how to live my life. He showed me how to find the place I go to every night while I’m sleeping.
David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.