There is a moment just as you start drifting into sleep when your mind bounces randomly between thoughts in a foggy state, not quite conscious, not quite unconscious. At that ambiguous moment, we sometimes let our mental guards down. The unresolved anxieties of life will intrude, those questions and conflicts we've been so busy avoiding all day every day of our lives.
Despite the well-reasoned arguments of wise men and saints, even the most believing of us caught in this midnight limbo will think of the universe, so infinite and so cold, and become overwhelmed by our insignificance. We wonder: What if it's over when it over? What if it doesn't mean a thing?
On this night, the thought sends me reeling from the bed, pacing through the darkness of the living room. The wind buffets the trees outside, casting shadows on the wooden floors that waver in the moonlight. The frenetic beating of my heart finally calms and my nervous pace slows to a disheveled dirge. Questions and beliefs, theories and credos, crash around in circles in my head. Then I turn into the hallway of the bedroom, catch my breath for a moment in the doorway, and cry softly at what I see.
There's a man in the bed, a man I love very much. He's got the covers pulled close to his face, though it's not very cold. His quiet body is wrapped in a cocoon of unconsciousness that I envy. One cat sleeps beneath his arm in the warm spot where I was moments before, another is curled at his feet. I long to be there beside him, my body nestled in the curves of his like two spoons, snug beneath the covers and the shared glow of our skins.
But now I'm lost in the night, standing in a doorway trying to keep it all together, to capture this feeling, this essence of life, as if I can take it with me when I go. It haunts me. Why does all this exist, these feelings, these bonds, our warm bedroom and our warm life, just to be taken away? What could that possibly mean? At times it makes beauty unbearable.
Surely I'm not the only one unable to sleep at night who wonders about existence. It has to be the most overwhelming thought in our minds. What else is there? So why, with this before us, do we thrash about in politics, wage war among peoples, and waste our time here on Earth with mundane busyness. Life's got to be more than that. There must be some cosmic meaning to it, more than the answers in religious books that are bound by faith, more than the monuments to humanism that are built from sand. All I know is that whatever the meaning of life is, it has something to do with the man sleeping in the bed.
painting by Gretchen Schmid