Sunday, November 11, 2007

A house I pass every morning No. 4

The Institue of SLEEP
Originally uploaded by JW.

This is the institute of SLEEP, an uninteresting, blank faced building. It is beginning to show its age. You can see that, above the door, the P has dropped off.

Built in the 1950s, the institute served as a centre for research until some fifteen years ago. Since then its main role has been in archiving.

As Elias Canetti once commented, sleep is the moment when man is most powerless. The moment when each of us lays ourselves open to being overcome. And yet sleep is a necessity. It seems that however powerful we are during our waking hours, it is still necessary to return each night to this state of powerlessness.

Well aware of this weakness associated to sleep, the government has invested considerable research into the phenomenon - but to no great end. Absence of sleep quickly leads to incoherence and death. It seems that sleeping and waking, power and weakness, day and night, are as important to the human as the inner struggle between good and evil which exists in all of us.

Perhaps the dualities of sleep and waking, power and weakness, good and evil form part of a complex balancing system which helps to regulate our lives. It is no accident that the director of the Institute himself recommended that research be stopped, that the investigative capacity of the Institute be effectively put to bed.


Anonymous said...

Interesting musings on the nature & importance of sleep, Jonathan.

I rather like the notion of a house called Slee.

George S said...

Do you know The House of Sleep, by Jonathan Coe? And Ursula Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven?

I imagine the pun about the P in SLEEP having dropped off will have occurred to you?

And 'slee', meaning 'sly'. You might know Willam Dunbar's poem that includes the lines:

"Our pleasance here is all vain glory,
This false world is but transitory;
The flesh is bruckle, the Fiend is slee:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me."

Jonathan Wonham said...

Thanks for your interesting comment George. I have been meaning to read 'The House of Sleep'. Perhaps I'll have a crack at it this Xmas. Yes, the pun was intended. But no, I hadn't considered the word 'slee'. 'the fiend is slee' sounds great, doesn't it? I like the way Dunbar 'breaks' euphemistically into Latin when he's talking about death. It's a long while since I studied Latin, so I had to look it up. Wikipedia tells me that the it can be loosely translated as: 'I am scared to death of dying', which seems reasonable, but a bit of a Catch-22 situation.