Wake Me Up When It’s Over

This was an interesting moment from Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine by Alan Lightman, p130:

“There are about a hundred billions neurons in the average human brain, and each neuron is connected by long filaments to between a thousand and ten thousand other neurons. The electrical and chemical components of these neurons are largely understood. The manner in which electrical signals are created and fly through the fibers of a neuron, then generate chemical flows at the juncture between one neuron and the next, then start up the electrical signal again in the next neuron is understood in quantitative detail. The creation of long-term memory, upon which so much of our self-identity seems to be based, is accomplished by the material generation of new connections between neurons and the strengthening of existing connections, all caused by specific proteins. Despite the known material nature of the brain, the sensation of consciousness— of ego, of “I-ness”– is so powerful and compelling, so fundamental to our being and yet so difficult to describe, that we endow ourselves and other human beings with a mystical quality…To some that mystical thing is the soul. To some it is the Self. To others, it is consciousness.”

So we know all kinds of stuff about how the mind works, but we don’t know what this feeling is of knowing. Which makes me so confused I feel sleepy. And, let me tell you, from all the articles people insist on forwarding to me, we really know very little about sleep — how it works, why it works, why it works the way it works, and what’s going on when it doesn’t work, not to mention how to fix it. So we not only don’t know what this thing called “I” is but we don’t know why “I” can’t sleep. I’ll tell you, it keeps me awake at night.

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