If you’ve never listened to “Narcolepsy”, by Third Eye Blind, do it now. In fact, slot out 57:40 this evening to listen to their entire self-titled album. Apparently culture runs on a roughly 15-year cycle, so this disc should be hip again. Anyway, anachronistic alt-rock isn’t the subject of today’s column, but the lyrics of “Narcolepsy” have a lot to do with what I’m trying to say.
At a birthday party the last week of winter quarter, I convened with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in quite some time. Happy with what we saw of one another’s lives, we arranged to have lunch Monday and continue the conversation.
I slept through that lunch. And while I could excuse it by recounting that I spent 2:15 Sunday afternoon to 6:15 Monday morning working in Y2E2, I know that ultimately I find my behavior abhorrent. The point is not that I shouldn’t complete my assignments, however inane and onerous, but that I know better than to selfishly allow somebody to wait for me in a dining hall. At the very least, I could have sent him a message saying that I’d probably need to crash in the morning and would have to reschedule.
Last week, I presented my metaphor of the golden dodgeballs, and while it rings true in some sense, the way that I phrased it also implied that the relative weight of each way that we can spend our time here is equivalent or can be quantified like currency.
It’s not. In fact, one of the most fundamental truths that Stanford’s culture of obsessive individualism scoffs at is the idea that we can and must stop playing the game altogether. If we view people as valuable baubles to juggle along with all of our other commitments, hookups to get our rocks off, marginal costs in the ledger, then we delegitimize the diversity of contributions that we can make to one another’s lives.
More importantly, perhaps, by narrowing our perspective on what people are, we cheapen them as soon as they stop serving our purposes. What’s so insidious about this mentality is that it fools us into believing that real human relationships are a choice instead of the baseline power that makes us all okay.
Most exemplary of the fact that we are encouraged to and do ignore necessities at this university are our sleeping habits. When I began insisting on a more regular sleep schedule this year, I found myself proud of catching six, even five, hours of sleep each evening and dropping into a fourteen hour veritable coma Friday night. How preposterous. I’m always weary. I fall asleep in strange places during the middle of the day.
Here’s a list of a few of the strangest places that I’ve slept on Stanford campus:
1.) On top of a washing machine so that when the timer went off, I could wake up and keep doing laundry
2.) In my math TA’s office the afternoon before a final
3.) The bookstore cafe, where, in fact, the employees and I often bet on how many cups of coffee before I crash
4.) On a stool next to a scorching polymer extruding machine
5.) Blume Center lab floor.
Laugh all you want. I’ve long joked with myself that all that I’ll be remembered for here are narcoleptic fits in the strangest places.
Yet there’s something more sinister than a medical condition at work here. Adderall and modafinil can’t cure it. Our insomnia is a conscious choice, and worse, as Mark Slouka pointed out in “Quitting the Paint Factory,” we worship this sleeplessness, wear it like a masochistic badge of honor. We consult Buckminster Fuller on polyphasic sleeping, on ways to maximize our productivity, spinning and spinning more quickly and more efficiently like shrinking silicon hard disks, cramming terabits of memory into our ever narrowing minds.
There’s an undeniable connection between the way that we commodify our relationships and the way that we commodify our sleep. They take time, and time, as we are constantly reminded, is money. So we starve ourselves thinking that we have better, more valuable things to be doing. But it’s time that we recognize that each of them are priceless foundations without which we could not have our superhuman bursts of productivity.
I don’t want to be remembered only for narcolepsy, so I’m making the conscious choice to rest. To recognize that there are some prerequisites to being human, and that if we stop seeing them as burdens we might just make all of our lives a little better. Don’t starve yourself of humanity until you have a physiological or psychological breakdown in the middle of class. Dr. Dement, you may be preaching to the choir with me, but I feel like the two of us are shrieking in a cloistered echo chamber when we try to spread the message about healthy doses of sleep.
Here’s my challenge for the week: sleep. No, seriously. Go to bed at ten tonight. See if, as I heard a young woman say on the way to class today, “I just feel so much better when I get sleep.”
Once you wake up, email Taylor and let him know what you thought about this column at firstname.lastname@example.org