Musing XVI: No Sleep For Superhumans


An important prelude to this post is one in which I firmly shout from this virtual soapbox that I do not play favorites: from the gentlemen (and my one lady siren) with whom I enjoy shorter encounters to those who invite me on international trips, my affections for all of them are boundless and I appreciate every single one of my friendships.

Those in my insulated circle manage to hit varying points on the full range of the personality pendulum. But the standard deviation of character traits is low in this exclusive pool despite extremely diverse backgrounds and generational gaps. Case in point, my friend X and my friend Z. I highly suspect that they have rubbed elbows at private soirees held for the Masters-of-the-Universe illuminati collective and entertained a Herculean joint venture. They do not (and, obviously, will never) know that I am a common denominator in how they are connected, but for my own amusement I can't help but think about their oil-and-vinegar differences yet appreciate the core similarities that ultimately define them. As 1%-ers in the highest tier, they are phenomenally enigmatic yet often vilified due to their accumulated wealth and positions in two dominating industries that are repeatedly the targets of leftist politicians. X is a millennial, Z is a baby boomer. X is a pioneer of disruption and innovation, Z is an icon of the traditional and a corporate raider bugaboo. But how are they similar? Both are relentlessly brilliant to the level of defying conventional human limits, philanthropic to the degree of having cemented legacies, and beautifully complex yet fundamentally noble in their values.

After spending countless nights with each of them, the first commonality I noticed is that they are both insomniacs. Scientific literature widely claims that a lack of sleep causes decreased productivity and even impotence (yet X and Z have debunked the latter theory according to my own empirical evidence). I, myself, have been subject to sleeplessness since reaching adulthood. I often think about what I could be doing, achieving, and experiencing in the one-third of the day recommended for dormancy. It's impossible not to fall victim to this trope of thinking since the world now is dominated by A.I. and humans compete in a culture of automation. Certainly, hard work has played a very important role in my own life which has caused me to lack or lose sleep, but I also think that (1) environmental or genetic factors can set someone up to be more or less likely to work hard, and (2) even the idea that hard work is a virtue is, in a large part, the result of cultural programming. My personal work ethic is the product of my inner-city childhood growing up poor and deprived, coinciding with a long study of the progress of Western civilization and the influence of this discipline on the American dream, the technological imperative, and my resolute adoption of the Darwinist principle "Survival of the Fittest". The argument can be made that success is directly correlated with a sleep deficit and, tangentially, the higher the IQ, the less one is prone to craving it. For X and Z, I observed that there is an element of despair, a splinter of fear in an otherwise fearless life, of not thriving to the fullest potential and perhaps sleeping for a prescribed 'normal' cycle equates to an inefficient use of their finite years of existence.

The second common thread is that when I inquire into their level of happiness, they convey a similar response: "I'm happy right now being with you", but have a strange and unnatural aversion to applying it to their comprehensive mental state. I concluded that they both represent a real life archetype of the mono-mythic hero. Consider the fairy tale phrase "happily ever after". Excitement and adventure lie in the entire story leading up to the ending. The narration of a story maps to our experience of unfolding consciousness and vitality of life. The happily ever after is where the story ends -- the death of the hero from our perspective. Our heroes are immortalized for their struggles and adventures, not for whatever comes "after". Within this narrative framework, achieving happiness feels like a form of suicide. A premature happy ending robs supernova-humans like X and Z of the immortality that might be made possible through the narration of their struggles and achievements. Their shared worst-case scenario is the loss of personal utility and the anthem of their lives would declare: I'm not finished, and never will be! Most people measure their successes by the size of their bank accounts. But for X and Z, it's way past abundance and material consumption that propels them since hedonism in itself can quickly become boring when pursued for its own sake. For them, it's about the creation of a timeless story with a deep and anti-nihilistic sense of purpose to contribute, synthesized with a thirst to become legendary.

The third commonality between them is their mutual impeccable taste in women. All cheeky joking aside, their similar disposition has resulted into many nights when I find myself waking up and seeing an empty space next to me, tiptoeing through the palatial walls of their respective homes or hotel penthouses, and finding them either clacking away at a keyboard or hunched over a dimly-lit desk before they divert their eyes to me and echo a kindred reassurance: "I'll come to bed soon, beautiful..."


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"Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art." 

© 2020 Grace Lee Riley