The Uncompleted Thought
By R. D. Flavin


     When it's not right, it's wrong!  I believe that's what slipped away when the anesthesia took me.  Last week, I went under the knife (with some light vacuuming) for a problem with my right knee.  The arthoscopic surgery snipped away an unrepairable chunk of my medial meniscus and sucked up stray bits of cartilage which were... I guess not doing much of anything.  I had already been told that they were going to tube me (var. tracheal intubation) and that there was a slim chance I'd remember them taking the tube out post-op.  Well, … I remember trying not to dart my eyes around the operating room too much.  Mustn't upset the folks with masks and sharp things!  There was the counting down from one hundred which when multi-tasked with trying to repeat “When it's not right, it's wrong!,” didn't work out past ninety-eight.  The uncompleted thought ceased and the warm, fuzzy and tinglies began with my return to the Commonwealth of Consciousness.  I couldn't control a millisecond of duh-ness and thought, “Hey, I'm not dead!”  Then came lots of eye darting...  I was in recovery, fairly certain the operation went okay (as the nurses standing over me were professionally glib in their questions to me and not screaming medical babble at each other), and I felt intellectually immature when remembering, “When it's not right, it's wrong.”  My consciousness and memory experiment was silly.  My time should have been spent trying to think of something clever to say to the nurses...  Well, I guess there was that, too.

     We don't practice waking up, but we compulsively attempt to gain mastery over falling asleep and losing consciousness.  Counting sheep has always been creepy to those who don't unequivocally support animal husbandry rights, Sancho Panza entertained Don Quixote in the pre-dawn hours with a story of a shepherd counting goats (though it's unclear if the telling was to forestall or induce sleep), and it's said that Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, achieves nightly unconsciousness by counting how many times he's spited the American people because his hyper-conservative agenda isn't popular outside of the FOX NEWS viewership.  We've a long love-hate history with sleep and it's a rare indifference that sequesters the siesta.

     Alcmaeon of Croton (fl. 5th cent. BCE) and Hippocrates of Cos (460-370 BCE) believed sleep was caused by blood flow to and from the brain with each suggesting a different direction.  Ol' Aristotle (384-322 BCE) guessed that digestion produced “fumes” which took heat away from the brain and caused folks to pass out.  Espousing the Atomism approach, Leucippus (fl. 430 BCE) taught that sleep was the result of “atoms” spinning away from the brain.  The theory was later supported by Epicurus (341 BC – 270 BCE).  With modern hindsight, it's difficult to be entirely fair in deeming what's reasonable and rational.

     The common assessment that we're cave-people with computers is apropos and immediately calls into question both real and a perceived weakness in unconsciousness and collective napping.  Whether it was the warm and humid savanna and the Serengeti of Africa or the cold and damp caves of Eurasia, a primal fear of being anally raped and eaten must have been profoundly influential in our social and psychological developments.  Truth is, some probably still go to sleep at night with the fear of being anally raped and eaten.  Especially in unreasonable and irrational Red states...

     The burials of the Qafzeh–Skhul early modern humans in Israel 100 ka were probably sentimental and not utilitarian (i.e., because of the smell).  Graves are quite old and making a bed or nest-building extends to the great and not-so-great apes.  I'm a little dismayed that the current literature (e.g., "The effects of the tree-to-ground sleep transition in the evolution of cognition in early Homo" by Frederick L.Coolidge and Thomas Wynn.  Before Farming: the archaeology and anthropology of hunter-gatherers.  2006, 4: 1-11), mentions “predation risk” or fear of getting eaten (along with the associated falling out of trees), yet refrains from discussing anxiety arising from a concern of being anally raped.  I'm sure getting a good night's sleep immensely contributed to Homo cognition and the fact that we share REM sleep with canines only means that dogs too are scared of being anally raped and eaten in their sleep.  I mean, I don't wish to make a big deal about the fear of being anally raped and eaten, but sleep and death are connected in the Way, Way Back Big Picture.  Difference is, for a seasoned time, sleep ends and wakefulness is the gift of life (though, of course, along with a continued fear of being anally raped).  BTW, if I had to guess I'd advance that your dog wants steak ...and doesn't want to be anally raped and eaten.  Just saying...

     In historical times textual aids were introduced to assist the dying and the dead.  The ancient Egyptians had their magical funerary texts, the various versions of the Book of the Dead (“rw nw prt m hrw" or the "Book of Coming Forth by Day"), to guide the “soul” through the realm of the dead, as well as the later (New Kingdom period) afterlife travelogues, the "Books of the Netherworld," that is, the Book of Gates, the Book of Caverns, and the Amduat or "That Which Is In the Afterworld."  The physical texts were magical prophylactics to prevent souls from getting lost in Duat (d3.t ≈ Amenta, lit. "the west"), however, lost or “found” or Heaven or Hell is tendentiously irrelevant as the souls were “dead,” as in ...well, dead.  Yeah, calling moot and moving on.

     Tibetan Buddhists also use magical funerary texts with the Bardo Thödol Chenmo (“liminality” and “liberation”), called the “Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State,” a series of short works to enable an individual to die with an attitude receptive to reincarnation, as well as other post-death suggestions which Carl Jung once affectionately described in an introduction to The Tibetan Book of the Dead as “useless” and for “queer folk.”  Now, the texts themselves are claimed to have been composed by the eighth century CE “Second Buddha,” Padmasambhava of Pakistan, didn't go over well in Tibet and were buried in some hills.  Tradition holds the texts were discovered on Mount Gampodar by the fifteen year-old Karma Lingpa (1326–1386) and the rest is, as they say, historical propaganda.  Regardless of its actual date of composition, the Bardo Thödol has served as a guide to grief and dying for many centuries.  A favorite historical anecdote would be the passing of Aldous Huxley who, on his deathbed, was injected with LSD and verbally guided by his wife, Laura, who eased him into death with words inspired by a recent reading of Dr. Tim's unpublished The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead (By Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books; 1964). Huxley's last trip began several minutes after the assassination of Pres. Kennedy.  And, to stretch out November 22, 1963, C. S. Lewis took his final adventure in Narnia...  It's a cynical weasel to admit some deaths seem better than others, but in actuality ...all death is equal.  Practice makes perfect doesn't apply to death.  Unless, of course, you're a quantum mechanical Christ-figure and then it doesn't matter ...'cause you're a god.

     We don't practice waking up, but we should.  I know I should be more tolerant, but I've long held extremely poor opinions of folks who wake up angry and violent.  My first few seconds of wakefulness have always been my personal barometer as it's usually serene and comfortably right...  Until the next few seconds of consciousness brings the wrong and the realization that I'm in pain, in debt, and back in the game.  In the morning, sometimes we're lucky enough to complete a thought from the night before. If we're lucky!  With forgetting many uncompleted thoughts pass into nothingness as if they'd never been thought of.  I should write down a reminder to exercise my right knee more, so I won't forget.  One day, maybe, but not today or anytime soon.

Metaphorically covering my rear,

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