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The Awake and The Sleeping This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

If you want to know anything about me the first thing I guess you should know is that I love books. Absolutely adore them. I don’t like all books though. I’m not much of a contemporary guy unless it’s contemporary writers writing about contemporary issues. In fact I don’t really enjoy fiction at all. Well, in truth, it’s not necessarily fiction per se. It’s just that when I pick up a book I expect to end up learning something from it when the thing is over. I want to feel wonderfully enlightened and an improved thinker from reading that book. I want to know I gained something. And most contemporary fiction books are just in it for the plot. They’re purpose is to entertain. Not that other books can’t do both, entertain and teach, it’s just that these particular books only entertain. And that just doesn’t do it for me.

It also bothers me when people don’t like books. I suppose there are 4 reasons for not liking books. Either you have a terrible time reading or can’t, you simply don’t have the time, you find no reason to or see no purpose in doing so, or you’re just lazy. Usually it’s a combination of a few of those. The first of these reasons is understandable. The rest are questionable at best. And usually it’s almost never the first one. That’s why it bothers me when people don’t like books. Another reason it bothers me when people say they don’t like books is I just see them as missing out on so much. To me, not reading books is the equivalent of not using one of your 5 senses. 6 if you’re into that sort of thing. You just wouldn’t not use one. Sure you can get information from the others, possibly the same information as you would from the unused one, but there’s a lot you can’t get too. It just makes life so much harder and you’d be missing out on an inexpressible amount of knowledge. That’s why I so encourage reading books.

Interestingly enough this is not going to be about books, although they certainly have a big part in this. But we’ll get to that later. This is about being awake and being asleep. Let’s approach it from the traditional sense. When you’re awake you’re fully conscious of what’s happening. People who are awake process their environment, make decisions, and think on a conscious level. People who are asleep are within the bounds of their own sub consciousness, a created world. Not only are they not aware of themselves or their environment but they make no choices, at least ones that they have not already made. They do no work aside from the work they create for themselves and only use exclusively what they already have, ie they draw just from their own memories, thoughts, and opinions. Working with these qualifications, you could easily define all people’s actions currently as those of being awake, asleep or their respective go betweens, falling asleep or waking up. To Sum it up everyone on this planet can be grouped into two categories, The Awake and The Asleep or The Sleeping. Now that we’ve summarized these terms and understand them in their practical form we can begin to apply them. I don’t really have enough knowledge of other countries and they aren’t my issue so I will focus solely on the U.S.A, although I’m sure most of this will be able to apply to the human experience in general.

In America I see two distinct types of people. The differences are profound and just as noticeable as someone who is sleeping and someone who is awake. On one hand we have those who live in a created world. They don’t make that many hard choices, at least not ones that have already been pre determined by the world in which they live. They dwell in a place of their own choosing and creation, even though they might not readily acknowledge so. In fact, they won’t recognize and understand any of this because they’re ‘asleep’ and most people won’t know that there are sleeping unless they wake at which point they would no longer be sleeping. This is to say that you can’t know that you’re asleep for the simple fact that you’re asleep. Second, ‘The Sleeping’ aren’t aware of themselves because they are, again, asleep. They don’t know what their body is doing at the moment. In The Sleeping’s case, they aren’t aware of their lives. They don’t understand what their lives are doing, what they’re for, and what they can be used for. They’re simply going and, like people who are asleep, their bodies or ’lives’ probably aren’t doing much at all. Further more, just as in a dream, they sometimes don’t even know why they go about doing things. They just do it. They go through life and just do things, make choices, with little thought as to why they actually do them. In fact, I’d say it’s a thought these people rarely even venture towards in general.

The final characteristic of ‘The Sleeping’ is that they use only what they already have. And what they have is the world in which they have created and the collective thought behind that creation. To get to the point, they have only the homes they chose, the jobs they got, the people they decided to know, the land in which they wanted to live in, and the thoughts and opinions pertaining to those places. It is the world which they created and, besides the past worlds that they have created, that is all they have. Nothing more. In consequence, The Sleeping don’t actively seek out more than what they already have around them. And what more they do get, by accident or chance, they generally don’t like because it’s not from their world and it doesn’t fit. Much like a piece from the wrong puzzle it doesn’t belong in their big picture. They are like very much the lotus eaters of classic Greek mythology. They have tasted the fruit and have no thoughts now but its consumption. They care only to remain on this island of bliss and slip into that deep, drugged sleep of apathy that the plant brings. That is what I mean by ‘The Sleeping’.

On the other side of the field we have ‘The Awake’. They’re pretty noticeable. To put it simply, they’re much the opposite of The Sleeping. Perhaps they won’t be able to give themselves all the exact details but, overall, they are quite aware of themselves. They understand themselves and know why they do things. But, more importantly, they actually do things. These people are purpose driven and work to advance toward their goals. They know, whether, right or wrong, why they are here, what they are doing and are actively searching out how to do it. Finally, because they are aware of not only themselves but of their ever changing world, they desire to learn more about this world and the things that interest them. In essence The Awake are aware of themselves and their world, are purpose driven in every way, and diligent students of life.

Everyone in this country can be separated into these two categories. Everyone is either awake or asleep. And in America I strongly suspect there are many more asleep than there are awake. And that’s a problem. Why is it that this could be the case? Well, Besides the obvious, I think there are several prime conditions that make this country such a viable ‘resting place’ for The Sleeping. From a geographical and economic standpoint our sheer size can contribute to this. Unlike smaller countries which encourage and even make necessary trips outside of the country we have everything we need right here. There is no need for anyone to leave the country, even if one gets restless. We also have the ability to provide everything right from the near by vicinity of your own home. Almost everywhere you go you can get almost everything you would ever need within a 10 mile square distance. It’s incredible. Of course, there are several other factors that can contribute to this, but, to some it up, America encourages and makes possible a policy of isolationism to the rest of the world. Even to the rest of America herself. It provides the perfect setting for someone to attempt to create the ‘dream world’ that they want, the one that will pay the most or be the most safe or entertaining. The possibilities are almost endless.

But the biggest factor that encourages excellent conditions for The Sleeping is our modernized and, what I believe to be, dumbed down culture. Through the modern age thinking has become almost a luxury. We have computers to do the hard stuff for us. There’s limitless and incredibly easily accessible entertainment to distract us from life, careers to keep us busy, and people just surrounding us at every turn to fight back the loneliness. It’s this very system that can put us in this enticing and walled off, never ending cycle. And it’s this very cycle that keeps people so well asleep. In fact, this system is designed so well it can keep us under for our entire lives. Just like the ancient Greek island of the lotus plants we have created for ourselves a never ending party spawned from this tempting morsel call modern culture. In it the fun never ends and people never want to leave. In fact, they’ll fight to stay, sometimes with their lives. And since we are so nice and inclusive we want everyone to join in because no one likes the guy not partying. It feels odd. So we find a way to give everyone a little taste. And this cultural lotus gets so well distributed on the silver platter that is none other than mass media itself.

That’s why I think so many people in America are apart of The Sleeping. Because we have found and enhanced, perhaps at first unknowingly, a system to keep us under, safely tucked away in our wonderful, little dream worlds in which we try and ensure, or insure, that nothing bad ever happens. Everyone gets a taste of this system that is our modern culture because it is so well distributed by our modern form of mass media. Everyone get’s a taste because mass media is literally everywhere. You can’t escape it. It’s in our TV, on our computers, in our schools, on the bill boards we pass everyday, on the cereal boxes we eat, and it’s being reflected by everyone we know, even ourselves. And because everyone gets a taste of it everyone will feel its effects at least to some degree.

I have already mentioned all the contrasting effects of The Sleeping and The Awake but I want to make sure the cause is not forgotten. The true most important difference between The Sleeping and The Awake is obvious but, as all obvious things, easy to miss. The cause is that The Sleeping are caught in a never ending cycle. They can’t get out of this cycle unless they wake up and frankly, a lot probably don’t want to wake up. The Awake are not walled in within a cycle and therefore are free to step outside the bounds of their culture and homes. They see the world because they have a desire to see it and, once you are outside the cycle, little obscures your view. It’s right there in front of you. So, to get at the heart of the matter, The real difference is that the Sleeping are trapped inside a cycle, the cycle being our modern, dumbed down culture. The Awake aren’t.

Now that that’s covered the way to wake up is now obvious. You have to leave the cycle. Some people can wake up on there own. They either catch a glimpse of the world from within the walls of their created lives and decide to find out what’s really out there or uncontrollable circumstances force them out. But there are problems with these 2 options. The fact is that everyone catches a glimpse of the world outside their cycle. In today’s world most cycles just can’t be isolated enough to not see something. But what is seen is usually warped or obscured. Just like the shadow of a mere bush down a lonely, dark road at night, these glimpses are twisted or darkened to seem scary or undesirable to us. But even if someone does catch a pure, unfiltered glimpse and follows after it, it can be hard to leave, very hard. Many people would tell you different things if asked if they would go live in a distant rustic cabin for a month but I guarantee the most popular answer would be “I would really like to go live in the woods for a month but I just love my cell phone, electricity, and coffee shops to much to do without it.” The problem with the second option is really quite simple. Most people who are forced out of a place will have a desire to return simply for the fact that they did not choose to leave in the first place. And just like drugs, bear traps, and bad relationships, it’s much easier to get back into the cycle than it is to get out of it.

The true best way to wake to be ‘woken up’ is to have someone wake you up. Everyone wakes up easier to a person than an alarm clock. And the good news is that The Awake have a tendency to wake up The Sleeping just by going about and living. I mean very rarely do sleeping people wake other sleeping people up right? It’s the Awake that do it. They ‘turn lights on’, so to speak. And most of all, they make noise. Because what our modern society is really designed to do is repress noise and light. It isolates people from light sources, removes those who makes noise, and distracts people when there is any noise being made or light being shed. But even people sleeping deeply under the crushing blanket of the cycle aren’t deaf or blind. And when someone awake comes by and gives them a nudge they’ll wake. In fact, I don’t think waking people up takes any special, tiresome effort at all. It’s keeping them awake that can be so challenging. Most people will simply go right back to sleep when woken up. But I firmly believe that, if you can keep them awake for a bit, They’ll eventually stay awake on there own. Then they’ll wake others up. And so begins the process.

Everyone knows, though, that people don’t entirely just wake up, instantly ready to face the world, especially not people who have been sleeping for quite some time. It’s a process. As you continue to stay awake the sun begins to rise, things start happening, and slowly but surely, you become more and more awake. That’s why I firmly believe that if you can keep someone awake for a bit they will eventually stay awake on there own. The longer you’re awake the more awake you’ll become. It’s simple logic. But in order to stay awake and not be tempted back into that blissful but ignorant and restricting cycle you have to stop consuming the locus plant. However, if we’re being up front and honest here, that’s not going to happen. It’s almost impossible to escape mass media and, therefore, our culture. What you really must do is find a way to counter it, an antidote, so to speak. And I think best accessible and effective remedy are, you guessed it, books.

Again, I’m not just talking about any books. Books are merely conduits of ideas and they can be just as much a tool of mass media’s as a TV. You need books with the right ideas, books with the ideas of The Awake. So the books that can actually be used as an antidote are books written by The Awake which will almost always be books written from an awake standpoint. In today’s world it is hard to find or know if a book is written by someone who is awake. The most surefire way of knowing if this is a book of The Awake is to look at the time period it was written. After all, modern culture and mass media didn’t come about until in between a debatable point of the 1950’s and 1960’s, although some could argue earlier. So it would stand to reason that any book written before that time would have a much better chance of being written by The Awake. It’s not a surefire way because there have always been people who are awake and people who are asleep. However, over all, it holds pretty true. Another point that is relatively true is that The Asleep are much less inclined to write a book than The Awake, especially back then when being an author was a bit more challenging. This is another reason why I like classic, older literature so much. Because most classics are time weathered masterpieces written by some of the most awake men and women of that time.

Although I have written in a style that you might think would lead one to condemn modern culture and society, I hold to no such thing. I’m simply stating what they are and what they are used for. I am not some 70’s throw back hippy yelling at the media for poisoning our minds. I just believe in education and affirmative action as solutions. And I see our Americanized modern culture as an obstacle in achieving that. You see culture is neither bad nor good. It is simply a force like gravity or kinetic energy. It is a force generated, and maintained by everyone who uses it which makes it the most unique force ever. But there are problems with that. Because it is generated and maintained by everyone who is within it, it can also be manipulated. It can be bent for others will. This is a fact that has been well known in the minds of rulers and kings since the times of empires and kingdoms. It is also the force they tried to tap into in order to bend people to their will. Because, although culture is controlled by us, it is controlled by a collective us. It can just as soon bite the hand that feeds it. Like the force of gravity, if you step out of line and don’t follow the rules what was once keeping you soaring through the heavens is now sending you crashing towards the ground to your death. Culture is a force and it will exercise it’s power on those who try and step out of line. The only difference between culture and gravity is that we have the power to change those rules.

What, then, ultimately makes our culture counter productive is this fact that it can be changed and gets changed by the wrong people. People have gotten smart over the years, you see, and they have become masters at working the system. Advertising companies, corporations, and governments are all pros. They’ve been doing this for a long time and they know exactly what they can do to influence culture and change the rules. Because if they can change the rules, we’ll follow. In the past, cultures were influenced by a general group and much more set in stone. They were harder to change and it worked as sort of a failsafe for preserving that culture, similar to the laws we have in order to preserve our constitution. It was effected by events, tradition, seasons, and ideas. In our modern culture though the system is being abused and new forces are working within our culture to influence it. True, they were sometimes there before but they’re much louder now. Greed, a desire for power, and anger are the new influences and they can have considerable sway. They aren’t the only forces, of course, and perhaps they aren’t even collectively the strongest but I personally think they are, especially when allowed to so flourish. And that’s my problem right there.

This isn’t about searching for solutions by the way. Changing culture isn’t as difficult as we make it out to be. This is about being aware. This is about being awake and being asleep. Once people are more awake I think things will start changing on their own. People just have to be informed. They have to be woken up. So what you should be asking yourself is are you awake? And, if so, what are you doing to wake others?

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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

DreamsAreBroken said...
Dec. 29, 2010 at 2:33 pm
This is an interesting piece. I agree and disagree in a few parts though
Ron_Burgundy This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Dec. 29, 2010 at 9:26 pm
Thank you. I thought it might be a bit controversial. I hope it wasn't to difficult to understand. It's really only a piece of a quite larger mosaic of thought. 
DreamsAreBroken replied...
Dec. 30, 2010 at 7:07 am
No I understood it quite fine. And I don't think any good piece would only show one side or not be controversial at all. To be of decent, upstanding quality, it should turn some heads and actually  make people think. You achieved that.
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