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Fragments on Fragments #9: Being Human in a Pandemic

Fragments on Fragments #9: Being Human in a Pandemic

9 The waking have one world in common. Sleepers turn aside, each into a world of their own


The pandemic has changed how many of us sleep, not usually for the better. The private worlds of sleep, in which we usually work through the past day and prepare for the next, have often been unable to cope with the uncertainties and anxieties of these past months. For some of us sleep has eluded our grasp completely; others have slept fitfully and only in the shallows, never properly resting. The ordinary strangeness of dreams has become still more bizarre. 


One reason perhaps is because we have not even been sure that Heraclitus’ first statement is true. Do we really have one world in common, even when we’re awake? As conspiracies swirl and advice is continually revised, and governments argue and haver uncertainly between difficult options, it’s hard even to be sure of the nature of the waking world. How can we safely enter sleep, if we are not certain what it is we will wake up to in the morning?


I am writing these reflections on one of the Orkney Islands, off the north coast of Scotland. The swallows are beginning to gather, in preparation for their migration to Africa. As I watch them hunting balletically around the house, I am again in a shared world, one world in which the beauty of a bird’s flight connects me to a reality deeper than myself. The world we share is not just composed of human beings, but the whole of creation. In a time of uncertainty, re-connecting with the natural order, wherever we may encounter it, may also help us to enter the world of sleep as a place of peace and refreshment.


Fragments on Fragments are written by the Right Reverend Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon in the Church of England. He introduces the whole series here. Alongside the words is an image by Alison Clark of a broken sand dollar, gilded in reference to the Japanese practice of kintsugi: you can find more of her work here.


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