What I’m Reading Now


This post was supposed to go up yesterday, but WordPress locked me out, and Bluehost claimed there was a problem with my computer. My five-minute wait for chat turned into a half-hour and then disconnected without resolution. Finally bored down into the pages of notes and found my way in.

Between physical ailments and acute emotional and mental distress, it’s been more than a month since I’ve written. Here’s an early New Year’s resolution to resume.

So we begin with another in the series. Waking, Dreaming, Being has been on my reading list since it came out in 2014. I borrowed a copy from the library and enjoyed it so much I bought an iBook. Evan Thompson has woven a sometimes esoteric and complicated analysis of western philosophy, pieces of Buddhism and Hinduism, neurobiology, and sleep science. The rewards are grand insights and tantalizing bits of information.

Thompson’s main thesis is that what we call “self” is a process not a thing, and he explores this aspect of us in various situations – hence the pieces of us that appear in the title, plus meditation and death.

He devotes a great deal of space to lucid dreaming, something I’ve never experienced. He explains the process, believing that anyone can learn. But I continued to wonder whether lucid dreams enhance self-awareness any more than recalling a “standard” dream the next day. I regard sleep as a blessed escape from stress and negativity. I don’t want to set about trying to manipulate it.

Early on, Thompson confirmed what I’ve been thinking for years, that “consciousness cannot be explained in terms of what is fundamentally non-experiential.” And yet he spends pages and pages trying to do exactly that, even enlisting the Dalai Lama in his cause.

Among the most fascinating portions of WDB is the controversy over yogis who fit the clinical definition of “dead” but whose bodies fail to deteriorate for days and even weeks afterward. Also on the theme of death, the entire discussion of “best” and “worst” should be required for all hospice workers and anyone else providing end-of-life care.

The book got deep in the weeds toward the end, and I found reading on iBook not a satisfying as paper and ink. I plan to finish it at some point but in the meantime, I’ve put it down in favor of other reading.

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