Thursday, November 20, 2008


Monday night, after a second evening of stimulating reading and thinking, I fell asleep easily, but awoke about 03:15 and could not fall asleep again. I rose and read a number of chapters in Exodus, prayed, and journalled. I returned to bed about 5:15, but did not fall asleep and got up before the appointed time. I had no particular thoughts my mind was fixed on, just the jumble of the previous few days.

Last night was not quite a carbon copy, but was close. I had the same sort of evening after returning home late from church and eating a quick supper. This time I had stimulating writing to do (well, after unstimulatingly going through some accumulated junk mail), and this took me till 23:30. Went to bed and fell asleep easily, but was up about 04:15, and slept little after that: dozing, turning, throwing covers off, pulling them up. A colleague called at 05:33, saying he would not need that ride to work after all. That sealed the deal on sleep. I stayed in bed until the appointed time, then was up and at 'em and on the way to work. Again, no particular thoughts dominated in prohibiting sleep.

What was this stimulating reading and writing I did, you ask, that may have caused this? Well, over the weekend I completed my review of my son-in-law's old term paper, "Athanasius' Relational Epistemology: a search for adequate language to express the mysteries of incarnation and atonement". I'd been working on this for over three years--not something I had to do, but something I wanted to do--but always had trouble understanding the paper. I finally found a method of writing the review, and finished it Sunday evening, subject to minor editing over the next two days.

You would think my mind would then have been tired simply from reading the title over and over. But no, at 22:00 on Sunday evening, I wanted something to stimulate my mind. The current book on my reading list would not do the trick, I didn't think, so I went to the section of the living room bookshelf which contains the ancients, and pulled out my 1914 printing of Critical and Historical Essays by T.B. Macaulay. I don't know if I've blogged on Macaulay before, but he is one of my favorite authors. I find his Victorian style difficult, and like others I question his scholarship, but, darn it, I just like him. His essays always get me to thinking.

This night I chose a 34 page essay titled "Ranke's History of the Popes." An odd thing for a Protestant reader to choose, perhaps, but choose it I did. I read about twenty pages Sunday evening, finishing it Monday evening. In it I found all the usual techniques Macaulay uses to tease his readers without significantly informing them; giving them evidence of his knowledge without analysis. This is probably excessive criticism, but hey, if Macaulay is going to take my sleep away, he deserves it!

Actually, I don't know that it was Macaulay by himself. Sunday we had a great church service and sermon and Life Group class, and I left both with things to think about. In Life Group we continue to go through the life of Moses, using one of Chuck Swindoll's books. Reading in Exodus and Numbers provided new insights, and I wanted to reread a group of chapters in each of them. Monday over-night was the Exodus group. I should have gotten up last night and done the Numbers group. So possibly is was the combo of church and Macaulay that kept me awake.

Having finished reading the Ranke essay Monday night, it was much on my mind Tuesday and Wednesday. I knew I wanted to write a review of it, mainly for my own amusement, and Tuesday night wrote some thoughts in my journal that could form the basis of a review. Last night after supper I began that process. Finding the couch and re-use paper, with the 1914 volume in hand, I wrote out four pages of analysis of Macaulay's Ranke essay. The writing flowed easily as I re-read the beginning six or so pages of the essay. By 23:30 I had slightly more than four pages of manuscript, words I felt did justice to the material, though of course requiring editing and perhaps fleshing out. I suspect my entire review will be seven or eight manuscript pages, so I definitely left the work undone. Perhaps this undone-ness was what kept me awake in the wee hours, though you would think that more likely to have prevented me from falling asleep in the first place.

Or maybe it's just a side effect of the steroids the doc has me on for my elbow injury, which occurred when I stepped in a muskrat hole back in late September. Either way, I'm now working on 15 hours sleep in the last 72, on a day when I must keep my mind sharp for the work I have to do in the office. I don't think I will be working on my Macaulay review tonight.

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