Embrace The Bubble

A bit of the Eiffel Tower

A bit of the Eiffel Tower

I am nearly through the throes of jet lag and my inner anthropologist has an observation or two about the altered state that occurs when one wakes up in Paris and goes to sleep in Kenosha.

When 36 hours pass in a 24-hour daylight cycle, the human body (my human body) experiences shock and awe. A soul cannot travel nearly as fast as a body in a modern airplane; that’s why they call it jet lag. The jet does not lag. The soul doddles as a good soul should while the body flings through space in a pressurized aluminum tube. The soul lags (note: my inner anthropologist is a scientist and is dubious about using the word “soul.” He wants you to know that “soul” is my translation of his term, “consciousness”).

Jet lag is like being inside a bubble. There are great benefits to being inside the bubble. For instance, the world is wonderfully distorted. Nothing is normal when sifted through a soapy haze. The bubble is the overlap of dream space and the everyday. From inside the bubble, people move too fast. Or, they move too slowly. The words people speak are garbled and generally bounce off the bubble. Checking out of a grocery store is like a scene in a sci-fi movie. Sense-making is impossible but the surrender to no-sense is sweet and oddly comforting. To release the necessity to understand, the need to recognize, rationalize, explain, or connect even the simplest of thought-dots is liberating. In the bubble, a sigh is the only appropriate response.

From the bubble, there is nothing to be done but to watch the time river roll. Jet lag bubble consciousness makes things somehow more simplistic; complexity is not possible from a jet lag haze. Inside the bubble, life routines that were unconscious prior to traveling are startling and new; they are like gestures from a previous incarnation. For example, this morning, doing the dishes, my hands knew what to do yet I was fascinated with the odd process. I was both doer and witness. Doing the dishes was known and new all in the same instant. The bubble, so my inner anthropologist claims, is a paradox: it dulls the thinking but sharpens the simple moments. It opens the senses. Prior to doing the dishes, watching the sunrise through the fog, I listened with fascination to the wind shake the dew through the high leaves in the trees. It was gorgeous; nature’s rainstick.

Within the bubble, sleep is a constant tug like an undertow. It pulls time into slow motion. It creates a liminal space, a not-here-and-not-there space. It creates a “now” space with a single simple imperative: stay awake for a few more hours.

Stay awake. I like the metaphor: to stay awake amidst the pull to dullness; ultimately it is the gift of the bubble. It is a reminder not to sleepwalk through life, to stay alert to the simple moments. Stay awake or your life becomes like a television running an endless cycle of sitcoms. Dullness is a choice. My inner anthropologist just rolled his eyes. It’s more extravagance on my part; apparently “choice,” like “soul” is not an appropriate scientific term.

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