Sleep, Awake, Sleep …

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.

Out, out brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.  It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5.


Why are we born, if seemingly only to die?  What is that vague sense of disquiet which hovers like a shadow on the fringe of our waking lives, and which in turn can quietly disrupt our day?  How can it touch us in our quiet moments and when done, leave us with the sense of a void in our life which we can’t quite describe yet nonetheless can feel?

Despite our successes, our attainments, our notoriety, why is it that they don’t satiate us, that they don’t dispel the feeling that something is missing, that they don’t quell it?  And what is the relationship between that feeling within and that sense of sameness which accompanies each day is it dawns and then climbs into the darkness of night, only to dawn again with repetitive emptiness?

Shakespeare felt it, and in his mastery clothed it with words which resonate across time.  What is ‘life’?  Why do we feel that there is more to life yet are unable to articulate quite what that is?  Why do we wonder at the purpose which drove our existence into being, which we tell ourselves surely cannot be for naught? Why do we repeatedly clamour for worldly attainment and acknowledgement, without realising it is at our own expense?  And why do we not know that we impersonate Shakespeare’s idiot, who struts and frets vainly fighting against the sameness overshadowing our lives, as we exist day after day after day.

Our life is a walking shadow, but it doesn’t have to be.  There is a sameness to the day’s dawn and to the day’s end, but there doesn’t have to be.   We live our lives full of sound and fury and rather than that signifying nothing, our lives can become something.  Life doesn’t have to be a walking shadow and we don’t have to participate in it asleep, but we have to know, before all things, that that is what we are.  And it is in that process of awakening from sleep, that the sameness falls away, that another way of being in the world feeds something within us and satiates us in a way we never dreamt was possible.

We are all idiots, but we can change how we live as we can change what we live for.  We can change such that the tale told by our lives will signify something, instead of the nothingness which imprisons all of us and of which we are all unaware.  It is the ever subtle and pernicious state, of sleep.

Michele T Knight Written by:

Dr Michele Knight is a Social Worker, Social Scientist, researcher and independent scholar. Her interest and research in the end-of-life has its origin in the lived experiences of her own bereavements, her near-death and shared-death events, the returning deceased and attitudinal responses to those experiences. Since 2006, she has been extensively involved in community development, support and advocacy in both a professional and community services/voluntary capacity in the areas of bereavement and grief, hospital pastoral care, and academic lecturing/tutoring. Her PhD, Ways of Being: The alchemy of bereavement and communique, explores the lived experience of bereavement, grief, spirituality and unsought encounters with the returning deceased.

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