Last night, I dreamt of a cave mouth furnished with bright, garnet poppies. Water whispered nearby, but from the grotto ahead there was no sound, no light. Only the softly swaying flowers rising above its sisters, hypnotic. I thought, This is Lemnos, the castle-island of the Dreamking, the source of oblivion and as close as I was to paradise, I felt fear.
The river Lethe is said to run the borders of Elysium, where it’s dark waters offer relief to the dead; relief from their memories of mortal living. It is the river of oblivion, Ameles Potamos, and its soft murmurings are a lullabye to those wandering shades who find themselves lost on her shores. Lethe flows around, through, or from the cave of Hypnos, Greek god of sleep, son of Nyx and Erebus, brother to Thanatos.
I found it interesting that this mythology promotes sleep as brother to death. It would follow that he would be descended from Nyx and Erebus, night and darkness, for, after all, we tend to sleep at night. But brother to death? I assumed that, if anything were to be diametrically opposed to death as to be analogized a brother, it would be life.
It takes little thought to support the relationship of death and sleep: after all, death has been referred to as “the long sleep.” But the story of Lethe, the inclusion of Hypnos and the revelation of his relationship to Thanatos, prompted me to consider sleep a little deeper. What a powerful realm to control! What a palisade dreams are to rule from, to direct the yearnings and learnings of all mankind. To be the deity of something that all must participate in, the activity that dominates most of our life.
There are plenty of studies that have delved into the role that sleep plays in the formation of memory, in its important role in processing what we’ve learned and what we’ve done throughout our waking day. Of course the river of oblivion, with its power over our memories, would locus around Hypnos’s ebony hollow. Of course the god of sleep, father of our dreams, would be brother to death - for who else dominantes so much of our living?
I used to believe that when we slept, we died. That every morning, every rising sun, was a rebirth, a new day. The cycle continuing. Of course, it’s a hard thing to prove - hardly a pillar of my beliefs - but a liberating thought nonetheless. Sleep the prelude to waking; death the next beginning. Cosmic permission to start anew each day, to challenge your Now to be better than your Then.
This thought was the primer for my mantra Stronger than Yesterday that helped me put aside my ego and get back to the gym; that helped me accept the wisdom of the proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
If you need some help getting to sleep, check out Reboot - we ground up some of the valerian root said to grow outside Hypnos’s cave, so you know it’s that good ‘ish - and if you need some help planting that tree, take a look at our discussion on goal setting from last week.
Live well today.