“the bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.”
A famous person, whose name I no longer remember, once said that the bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep. That’s how simple it can be said – and done. We spend 26 years of our lives sleeping. Now I will not go into depth on everything that happens when we sleep but let me put it this way – we need sleep. And we learn an incredible amount. Yet it is what we experience when awake that is processed in sleep and enables us to learn from what we have experienced.
So what do we learn when awake?
I’m old enough to gradually accept that life has an end. In such moments, I take it upon myself to philosophize about what I have experienced and perhaps also learned – I am 59 years old and probably have about an equally eventful life as an average human being. I am a writer and when people turn to me, there is often an unspoken question behind the inquiry. That they have a desire to write a book about their lives because they think it is so unique.
And they are absolutely right. Every life is unique. It is rich in content, full of joys, sorrows, experiences, love, hate – all these big, heavy words that make up a lived life. Some describe their lives in books, others live them out in their experiences and take them further in form of memories, still others we can glimpse into the values they advocate, things they leave behind or what they did.
The war in Ukraine characterizes our everyday lives as I write this.
As the reader of this blog knows, I have barely had my toes in what can be called war. I will not repeat what I experienced as a 19-year-old in Lebanon, other than that it marked me for the rest of my life. For better or worse.
My thoughts these days go into deep compassion for those who are experiencing a much more brutal war than I have ever witnessed. In addition to being innocent civilians, I now see that one of the weapons used is torture and rape. Cruel acts are nothing new in war or peace and should not surprise or shock us. But I let myself be shocked, and I let myself be surprised.
And I always ask myself the same question: What kind of people get themselves to rape another fellow human being? Have we not learned anything from our time together here on earth? Where are our values?
One may ask that, that question could be asked at the moment someone actually chooses to use violence. Whether it is in a war or in situations where there is no war.
We are shaped by our experiences, and I am an ardent supporter of learning from them.
I learned some of my contingents in the foreign services, people I met in other countries I have visited and things I read, saw, heard and tasted.
(I learned very little in school. In fact, so little that when my daughter was sorry for a bad grade in a subject, I showed her my record from high school. Then she got a chin drop. I had bad, bad grades.)
I had some periods in my life where I struggled. My experiences from Lebanon gave me PTSD and the symptoms drove me far into the depressions. A natural consequence of such a condition is the thought of escape. Also called suicide.
Especially when I was parachuting, the thought of escaping became strong. In free fall, at more than 200 km per hour towards the earth, the thought sometimes roamed me. What if I never pulled the parachute? The thought was captivating. But always when I let this happen for a few seconds at a time, pictures of those I have closest, appeared.
As another wise person (whose name I also do not remember) has said:
Taking your life does not really mean taking your life. One takes the lives of others.
Of course I would never have done that. But I had to get through it. I had to experience it.
I had to learn it.
We are not the ones to set up the accounts of our lives. That’s what others do. Those who are left behind. The famous legacy that is so important to us humans. It’s completely uninteresting to me. What matters is what is here and now. Can I live every day with what I have done? And then I have to ask myself. Those who kill, torture and commit rape – can they live with what they have done?
But now it’s time for a good night’s sleep.
And try to learn from what you have experienced today.
In a good way.