The Case for Loafers

No doubt it is a sign of advancing age, and also of retirement, that these days I always take a siesta. This increases my productivity greatly, for I am energetically clearheaded only for an hour at a time, and always soon after I have fully woken up. After about an hour, it is downhill all the way.

Whenever I emerge from the oneiric state between sleep and full consciousness, however, I do so—now twice a day—with a feeling of deep regret. I love the state, half asleep, half awake, in which you dream but know that you are dreaming. I have trained myself to prolong it as much as possible, for example by refusing to open my eyes. My dreams in this state are not necessarily pleasant, but they are not nightmares, either. They have a more important quality, that of being interesting, at least to me, though I hardly remember any of them once I am fully awake.

It is like having an endogenous or built-in entertainment system, rather similar to those screens on the back of airline seats that draw your eyes to them even though you want to read your book. I suppose my taste for the oneiric should make me more tolerant of those who spend their days glued to screens of one kind or another and feel agitated or uncomfortable if forced to look upon what we once called the real world. For many people now, what happens on a screen is the real, and the formerly real is the virtual. We live in a kind of Bishop Berkeley world, in which to be is to be perceived—via a screen, of course.

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But why should I feel such regret when I leave my oneiric state and am plunged once more into what I, being the child of a different age, still think of as the real world? My life is a comparatively good one: I lack for nothing essential, I have plenty to interest me—sometimes too much, in fact, and it threatens to overwhelm me.

The Anglo-American litterateur Logan Pearsall Smith (I think it was) knew a man who was so appalled at the prospect of having to put on his shoes and tie his shoelaces every day for the next fifty years that he committed suicide. Trivial as this may seem as a reason for not wanting to live, I understand it.

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