Those night-of-sleep-that-got-away stories are all too common in what it is we do here. We work hard, we fray at nerves, pull out our hair, and try to catch a date or a movie or both every now and then. And because we are looking for this life towards which we aspire and trying to make it happen and have it all and do it all, we cut back on sleep.
Perhaps you have never tried it before now, but you can put a rank to what bodily functions of yours you’d like control over. I encourage you to try it now. My list, so far as I’ve thought it through to any great extent, is as follows:
1. Breathing. We are, by and large, aerobic creatures. While I’m sure there’s some gut bacteria out there who might otherwise be fine, most of who and what we are requires oxygen. The way our collection of cells functions is that each and just about every single one of them spend their entire lives (that trajectory from creation to void, from 1 to 0) specializing to become some itty bitty billionth billionth part of you. From the skin on the inner portion of your pinky toe to that strange smooth muscle that beats with the selective, stochastic influx of ions, they all do just a few things really well, forgoing their own ability to maintain certain functions, such as the production and transportation of metabolic products, instead relying on a larger system to provide it, much as there is a whole apparatus to deal with your waste of which you (and I) are largely ignorant. The number one currency in this specializing exchange program seen from a macrophysiological/organismal perspective: oxygen. We get that from breathing, therefore, breathing is first on my list of bodily functions.
2. Motion. Once I can provide oxygen to all my cells, I want all of those cells to be able to coordinate at least some gross motor functions. Moving limbs, manipulating environment, interacting with environment, all big in my book.
3. Seeing. Being able to identify the world around me is a great tool to have at the ready.
4. Eating food, drinking.
5. Disposal of waste (urination, defecation). We spend most of our first two years mastering these abilities. And we’re still learning. How to dispose of our waste, to recycle. Hell, some of us are still learning to eat (I spill on myself every other day) and from some of the eyes I saw after spring break, some of us are still learning to drink.
6. Autonomy over many functions. (I want to breathe whenever I want, I want to move whenever I want, I want to see, eat, do anything I want. In fact, I note here for the first time, that I suppose my system of greatest injustice also generally follows the same trend: I can’t breathe, I can’t move, I can’t see, I can’t eat, I can’t do…)
7. Taste. I’d like to be subjective about the world every now and then.
8. Clarity of forethought. I’d like to know what I’m going to do in a given situation. I, often, do not want my future to come as any great surprise. Call me old fashioned but I’d rather just work for it if I know it’s what I want. I don’t like betting on the longshot as anything but a laugh. And only then because I know it’s what I’m doing to do.
9. Sleeping whenever I want.
And 10, well, I couldn’t think of ten. I really just got to nine. And even by nine I was thinking I ought to just scale back, I was already grasping at straws for some of them: taste, clarity of forethought? Are these bodily functions? Maybe. I had space to fill and thoughts to fill it with and so I only got a list of nine. And the last one, the very last one, the one I was just saying does not get enough attention from us when we’re in the thick of it – namely, sleeping whenever I want – was number nine.