Monday, April 24, 2006

Night Terrors

Long before I fell in love with Maurice Blanchot and Emmanuel Levinas, I experienced night terrors. It has nothing to do with terror of the night, rather with terror experienced in the night. When I experience a night terror episode, often there is something faceless and unnamable that I sense pursuing me; I intuit this as death, my impending death. When, in my sleep, I sense this, I awake, and still I sense it, see it even. And so I scream until the back of my throat is raw. Sometimes I run, shaking, but with the strength of ten thousand men. Last month I kicked my hip out of joint as my leg lunged and kicked toward the faceless nothing that appears only in darkness.

I can't help but think that such an innate experience was prescient in regard to my future love affairs with the aforementioned philosophers. Blanchot in particular understands the darkness of night as illuminating, perhaps more so than the brilliance of day and its daylight. And Levinas talks of the "there is" -- the something that exists in the same way that the "it" exists in the phrase "it is snowing." But Blanchot is also obsessed with "the disaster," which in one sense is our awareness of death, and that it waits for us as the ultimate "disaster," and informs our thoughts, whether in waking or dreaming. And yet darkness illuminates.

Yet, I still wonder why death must repose in my own personal darkness, my space of sleep. No, actually, it's not my space of sleep, nor is it my space of wakefullness; rather, it's something in between those two spaces.

6 comments:

Casey said...

That mid-night horror of death has to be one of the most human experiences there is; I wonder why we talk about it so seldom... probably there's nothing much to say about it.

Anyway -- I love your blog! It's so dark. You've earned a link back at my place... mwhaha!

lissy koser said...

The midnight horror of death appears to me in that ackward place between sleep and wakefulness--sleep purgatory, I call it. It comes to me when I can't run to safeties of daytime, the diversions of existence, from doing the dishes to watching the smile on my baby's face. It comes to me when I can't hide in the security of deep sleep, when the comfort of dreams are still absent. This is when my night terror comes. I cannot run. I am paralyzed, and then I fall, plunging down, and it feels as though my heart has slipped from my chest cavity. There are nights when my physical wakefulness protection plan kicks in and mandates my legs to run, and so I do. Across the room as far as I can go until a door is closed. Sometimes I will instead scream, "Oh no OH no OH NO!" The most elementary of expressions, my biggest fear approaches me, and this is all I can say--my first learned exclaimation of impending doom. The truth is nothing can protect us from the inevitable, the permanence and imminence of death. We use these words forever, death, eternity, and I had long believed that as humans we cannot perceive these words. But perhaps, as humans, we can grasp the concept of entertity, but what we cannot rationalize is "The End." Movies end, but you can always replay them. Vacations end, but you can always plan more. People die, but we will see them again in heaven. We as humans can't perceive the end. The night terror is a visit from "The End." The reminder of the looming problem with humanity; life will end. And so we wait, counting our hours of breath remaining, put our trust in our Gods there is no end, and attempt to elude the night terrors one night at a time.

Monica said...

I think you get what I'm saying, Lis. But one thing I'm not sure about -- what if life does end, and we don't see anyone in heaven, as you suggested? Or, let's say there is a "heaven," and that our souls meet there -- I can't think that we will recognize each other in the same way we would have in a human existence. I wonder if this is what the night terror is about. Maybe life is much like movie, in terms of the possession of a concrete ending, and that is what terrorizes us at night.

Donna B said...

I hope it's ok to write here even when it is just the gloaming...

I've read of people who actually do get totally paralyzed, even though they're awake, and lie in the dark, terrorized. I can remember one time when someone reached in my body to take out an organ, and I woke up and could still feel his hand inside me, and that was so so scary.

I hate to go to sleep, too, which is why I'm up til it's almost light, sometimes. I don't know if I'm afraid of the dark- I do sleepwalk sometimes- or afraid of another earthquake while I'm asleep. I'll never forget that.

Monica said...

I think sleep walking is genetic -- most of my family members do it. But night terrors I'm not so sure about.

Donna B said...

PS I forgot to say how impressed I am that you read 2 philosophers (?). I was thinking of majoring in philosophy, in which case I would feel a little more up to speed.
But now I think I'll just go and lie down.
PS again, if your hip is still out of joint, hope you don't have Kaiser. J/k, they're ok, but I get mad at them.