In his Confessions
, the 4th century philosopher and theologian St. Augustine of Hippo
writes of being "held down pleasantly, as in sleep," instead of rising to answer the call to an enlightened state. We all know the place between sleeping and waking, when you wake and drowsily wonder, "Should I get up and start my day, or should I luxuriate here in my warm, comfortable bed?" It feels so good just to lie there and ignore the rest of the world, at least for a time. You know you should get up, but perhaps it wouldn't hurt to doze, just for a few minutes more...
Augustine's point was how pleasurable it can be to avoid becoming enlightened, and delay taking action on what you know to be true. Even when you know there is more to life than lying abed, that there are important things to be done, and you should be doing them, it's so much more pleasant to snuggle deeper under the covers and keep your eyes closed a little while longer.
On an average morning in daily life, of course, we do get up, although sometimes a bit later than we should. Usually, someone is expecting us to be somewhere – a spouse, a boss, a child, a client. And so we rise, protestingly, sometimes grumpily, because duty calls.
But answering the call to enlightenment doesn't work quite that way. There is typically no one waiting for you to become enlightened, no expectation that you will be arriving at enlightenment by 9:00 AM, no consequences if you choose not to become enlightened today.
And so the choice is yours alone, and it comes upon you at the most inopportune time – when you are half asleep. How can you be expected, you might protest, to make such a brave choice when you aren't even fully awake? Exactly so. This is why most of us spend as much of our lives as possible in a half asleep state. It's so pleasant here resting between the oblivion of sleep and the responsibilities of waking life. Who wouldn't want to stay here as long as he or she could?
By the very nature of this particular choice, it only comes upon you when you are at your lowest ebb, defenseless, yearning to retain the lusciousness of staying half asleep, even after you know that a more enlightened state awaits you.
The choice is yours to make – sleep or wake, luxuriate in selfish pleasure or rise and meet the day, burrow deeper into your cocoon or open your eyes to what the world needs of you.
Half asleep, your world can be no larger than your bedroom. Wide awake, from your bedroom you can begin to change the world.
Labels: heroism, life purpose