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Clay's Column


Forget about sex, just go for the nap
April, 2010

By Clay Warnick Have you heard the latest? Sleep is the new sex. As pornography continues its relentless march into mainstream culture, sex is losing its cachet as the top desire of mankind. And as 24/7 schedules and round-the-clock TV wraps us in its tentacles, simple slumber has become our guiltiest of forbidden pleasures. Try this experiment at your next dinner party. Go around the table and ask each guest to describe his most recent nap. You’ll be shocked at the lurid detail you’ll hear about this most basic of human activities. Then, ask your guests if they’d rather spend a night of passion with their movie star of choice or enjoy eight solid hours of sleep in a dark and quiet room. Brad and Angelina won’t even come close. And the reason for this is simple: Supply and demand. Sex screams at us everywhere we go. Magazines, TV sitcoms, billboards, radio commercials. It’s inescapable. Sleep, however, is rare. With late nights at the office, the kids’ soccer practice, ringing Blackberries and Jay Leno, our waking world of eternal vigilance holds us in an iron grip. Along with a sleep-shortage in our modern lives, there’s also a lack of silence. In each issue of the River Times we ask local celebrities about their favorite times of day. Invariably, it’s early in the morning or late at night, “when it gets quiet”. That’s a reflection of how nuts our schedules are from 8 a.m. till midnight. Everything is talking at us in this modern world from the TV at the doctor’s office to the salesman who knocks just as we’ve quieted the baby. But those aren’t the greatest distractions in our lives. The mobile phone with its ability to Tweet, text, call and play music is the King Kong of silence killers. Sara Maitland, author of A Book of Silence, considers the mobile phone a “major breakthrough for the powers of hell.” With its propensity to interrupt meals, destroy conversations, distract deep thought, and, yes, prevent sleep, it keeps us on a perpetual hamster wheel of receiving and sending information. Whether it’s steady stream of urgent news, or a simple call to pick up the dry cleaning, there’s no escape from the world and its perpetual problems when there’s a phone in your pocket. Hell is a very noisy place in C.S. Lewis’s classic book The Screwtape Letters. He describes it as: “the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile”. In that same book, the devil exults: “We will make the whole universe a noise . . . . The melodies and silences of heaven will be shouted down in the end.” And that description is a pretty close approximation of our lives in the modern world. We’ve decided, however, not to surrender to this world of constant noise and sleep deprivation. A friend of ours recently pointed out there’s an “off” switch on our phones and TVs (who knew?) and we have plans to use them a lot in the days and months ahead. We’ve also learned about a wonderful thing called “nature” that can provide a fine escape from the troubles and demands of daily life. We plan to check that out too. Just as soon as we wake up from a glorious two-hour nap.

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