The transition between sleeping and waking is the closest we come to genuine human frailty and nakedness. It’s when we glimpse our deaths and shrink from them, cowering before the bathroom mirror. It’s when cliches fail me, and the disconnect between what I would and what I should is at its sharpest–between my insecure but curious will and the daily routine; between what’s projected by me, easy as a rose unfolding, and what’s expected of me, immovable as a granite wall. Within an hour-and-a-half, the former has either concretized or melted, but in either case is set aside; the latter, however, can be avoided no longer. My workday is beginning.
This morning’s psychopompic escort up I-65 is My Morning Jacket’s 2002 EP, Chocolate and Ice. It was my transport across the divide, though the journey doesn’t feel complete–I’m still acclimating to work. Along the the way, the trees stood mute and gray in their rank beside the interstate–the trees a soft backdrop, the interstate a hard intimation of movement. The effect of that combined visual–trees and road–is numbing, but also comforting. Maybe both feelings grow out of familiarity.
Everybody transitions from bare consciousness to daily routine somehow: some with prayer and holy book meditation; some with exercise; some with TV news; some with reading, writing, painting, or music; and some with the day’s first beer–often it’s a blend of two or more of these things. But one thing I now believe: there’s no remedy for the human condition. Those morning rituals we depend on to buoy ourselves for the time we must spend out in the world, those nightly rituals that help us to be okay with the trappings of our individual existences–it’s all just a quick-fix–daily pills to buffer that bare-boned state of insecurity that confronts us first thing in the morning.