Metropole Magazine

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05 Jun Written by  Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

The Assault on Sleep

The other day a dog in my compound innovatively used an elevated concrete platform as pillow. The emotion this scene provoked assured me that sleep has literally gone to the dogs. It is a life-changing moment when you look at a dog given to chewing relevant bits of your shoe with envy rather than the usual resentment.

Several millennia ago, the death knell for sleep was sounded when King Solomon declared: “Yet a little sleep, a little shall poverty come…” Recently, capitalism has contributed its well-fed hands to the strangling of sleep— with its relentless drive to acquire everything, its modus operandi is work, work, work. Parents urge kids barely out of diapers to get a job; not to be outdone, the kids grumble back, if you had worked hard, I wouldn’t have to. “Dangote no be your mate?”

Today, there are fewer epithets worse than “You are lazy” or the scorn-disguised-as-advice, “Don’t be lazy.” Nothing is more likely to drive a grown man to tears. The better if said man is unemployed: trying to catch forty winks after prowling the streets in search of a job, the wife shows up while dude is attempting the treacherous glories of intense snoring, uttering the priceless three words.

Stand back and watch a man crumble.

These days, folks are united against sleeping people: ushers, those malevolent beings in holy spaces, are quick to tap the lifeless hand dangling a few centimetres from the floor, the recovering man thinking, “I thought salvation was personal;” a holier than thou fellow congregant who looked like a friend is quick to nudge the sleeping man; wives desperate to preserve the image of a wholesome relationship tuck a surreptitious but firm elbow into the side of the somnolent spouse; the barely conscious commuter is rudely shaken, pinched, or his wallet relocated, as he innocently seeks a comfortable shoulder on the bus; enthusiastic sleepers are routinely scorned— tabloids, with obvious glee, display high resolution photos of a celebrity snooze.

But scorn is not enough since a significant portion of the population want to take advantage of the sleeping man: from the fellow commuter who wants your wallet, to the vicious friend who decides to enforce payment for small sins with unjustified slaps, or swift effective conks as he attempts to wake you to the girlfriend punching you in your sleep for giving the pretty passerby an eyeful, to classmates lighting a hollow paper cigarette between half open lips.

People don’t respect sleep anymore.

But it is necessary. The murderous Macbeth was deprived of it, Jacob slept and had a vision of heaven, even Adam was put to deep sleep before our matriarch, Eve, was produced— now look how women treat an ‘inappropriately’ sleeping man.

There is a need to rearrange our value system. As insomnia turns into a forceful epidemic, people should brag about hours bagged:

“Honey, I just did nine hours with just one bathroom break.”

“Poor thing, I just did thirteen hours and I’m returning.”

Sleep is constantly viewed as a passage to great things. How many hours can you go on minimal sleep? Yet, sleep is pleasurable per se— there has to be a reason for all that saliva drooling— and in creating dreams, it has a very useful by-product.

Dreams are very useful entities. They are linked to romance— a lot of people have been won over with a solemn declaration of, “I dream of you,” which has to be second place in romantic possibility after the famous “I love you.” It is also linked to greatness, at least to the kind peddled by motivational speakers, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Health: “The cure for anything is salt water— sweat, tears, or the sea,” Isak Dinesen said; but none of them offers a solution to insomnia.

And politics, of course: Vote for me, I am the candidate of your dreams!

(Not too long now, while campaigning, someone would offer the electorate hours of sleep.)

Sadly, the assault continues on this cheap source of pleasure. There are too many factors militating against a good, old fashioned sleep. Roads have potholes, homes have noisy generators, churches have intruding ushers and taxis have rude pinchers.

Christians can, however, see a consolation: we are inadvertently becoming Christ-like— increasingly, the sons and daughters of man no longer have a place to lay their heads.