23rd June

The Examined Life

She woke up. She thought about herself waking up. Was I really asleep just before I woke up? How was I lying? It was only seconds ago but she couldn’t remember because she’d moved. She’d reached out and turned on the light. She couldn’t remember the last dream she’d had, the one she’d woken up from, or if she had actually been dreaming. What does that mean, ‘actually been dreaming’? She had no conscious appreciation of six or seven or eight hours in every twenty-four. This bothered her. Maybe I should set the clock to wake me every hour through the night. What good would that do? It would just make the rest of the day intolerable.

She listened to herself breathing. She listened to the air going in and out of her nostrils. She surveyed her body without touching it, without looking at it, seeking out aches, itches, numbness. If there is no negative sensation can it be inferred that that part of me is healthy? What does ‘negative’ mean? What does ‘healthy’ mean?

Get a grip, she told herself. Get up and out or you’ll be late for lectures. But she lay there thinking about who she was, what she was doing, what she wasn’t doing and why she wasn’t doing it.

She blamed the university. They’d told her she couldn’t do History and Astrophysics. Why not? Because they were different subjects with different timetables in different faculties on different campuses. ‘No,’ she’d said, ‘they are intimately linked. We are stardust,’ she’d said, almost breaking into song. ‘Aristotle looked at the stars. Is Aristotle not history? Are Plato and Galileo and Newton not history?’

They wouldn’t give way, but they heard what she was saying. They heard ‘Plato’ and ‘Aristotle’. ‘How about History and Philosophy?’ they’d suggested. That would be possible. That would be acceptable. Possible or acceptable? ‘Both,’ they’d said.

She blamed Plato. She blamed Socrates. Her life had slowed to an inching crawl. Maybe she was ill. How would she know? She had no perceptible aches, no numbness.

She would get up in a minute. She would have to. Everything was point- less if she didn’t. And maybe even if she did.

Reader: Rebecca Wilkie
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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