19 March 2014

Every morning right when I get out of my bed I am 20% awake, I am 20% myself. There is not much in my thoughts about the people I love, about my job, about my goals as a person. All my thoughts are about the very basic needs - drink water, clean myself, read some stuff.

Next, I grab a phone, a tablet or a laptop and read random stuff for a few minutes - email, comics, social networks, news websites. I get around 40% awake. I slowly start remembering where I am and what entertains me. Next, I take a shower. 60% awake. I start feeling fresh and clean. Next, I sit down for a few minutes without moving, and just thinking about whatever my mind decides to think. 80% awake. I remember the things that were on my mind the day before and decide which of them are most important. Next I get some caffeine - either tea or coffee. 100% awake. It helps me focus on whatever is in front of me and execute with speed, precision and foresight.

On good mornings I also try to eat breakfast, exercise, stretch. All of these steps help me have a good day. But it is OK if I skip a step. I’m still operational, I can react to all the stuff happening around me, I can write code, I can participate in conversations with other people.

But I feel there is a little piece missing. For example, if I don’t get close to eight hours of sleep I get tired easier during the day. If I don’t read through all my news sources I have the urge to pop in Hacker News or r/asoiaf during the day, and I end up wasting way more time on it later on. Until I shower I feel as if I’m still lying in bed. If I don’t give myself a few minutes to sit down and clear my mind I have all these half-started thoughts in the back of the head that keep popping up and try to distract me from whatever I’m doing. Without caffeine I’m slower.

If I compare my mind to a smartphone, sleeping would be similar to plugging the charger, checking news would be similar to updating all the apps, showering to running a system check and verifying that all the different parts still work, meditating to organizing the apps. Drinking caffeine would mean to connect to 17G, and use the full capabilities of the processor, memory, motion tracking, music and camera.

Happily, I’m not a smartphone, I’m more complex. Smartphones don’t have long term goals and they don’t feel emotions. They don’t have much of an identity. What they are is shaped by their owner. As a human I have various needs, desires, obligations and skills. I make choices.

And when I feel 100% awake, it is easier make better choices and execute on them, both regarding my identity, and my obligations to others. It is easier to connect to other people, to spot injustice, to be grateful.

Conversely, the more asleep I am the easier it is for my actions to be influenced by my basic physical needs, by media manipulation, by physical limitations, by distractions and by mental limitations. I’m more of a zombie controlled by external factors, and less of an autonomous human.

The more awake, the more alive I feel. I’d rather be awake now [1].

[1] Avicii - Wake me up: http://youtu.be/5y_KJAg8bHI

You'll receive emails containing the text and images of the essay, once or twice per week. Usually less often.

I write these posts to clarify my thoughts and improve my communication. They are mainly written for myself, and my future self, but I'd love to hear any comments you might have, especially if you disagree with what I've written, or if you've found it valuable in any way. Message me on Twitter @themitak or email me at comments@dimitarsimeonov.com.