Between first sleep and second sleep

About two years ago, we posted First Sleep, Second Sleep, which became the 12th most-read post on this blog, with people to this day clicking on it.  It had to do with what historians have discovered about sleep patterns in the days before artificial lighting, from ancient and Biblical days through the 17th century.  People would go to bed shortly after it turned dark, sleep for four hours, wake up for two or three hours, then go back to sleep for another four hours.  During the period of wakefulness between “first sleep” and “second sleep,” people would talk, read, and pray.  This seems to have been the main time when married couples would make love.  Artificial lighting–not just candles but oil lamps and especially electric lighting–changed people’s sleeping patterns, letting us stay up late, though patterns of insomnia suggest that first sleep and second sleep is deep wired into our nature.

Anyway, researchers have been studying this phenomenon.  Test subjects made to go to sleep when it gets dark, after a period of adjustment, fall back into the pattern.  But then scientists discovered something else.  That time between first sleep and second sleep is characterized by a unique state of consciousness.  Although the person is fully awake, he or she is in a state of deep rest, relaxation, and peace.

Clark Strand, who has written a book on the subject, relates it to the “mindfulness” of Eastern meditation.  I don’t think we have to go all mystical about it, like he does (though the connection might suggest why “the night watches” were such a good time for Bible reading and prayer), but I’m curious what this would have meant for marriages.  Marital intimacy–sex, yes, but also conversation–may well have been heightened during this nightly state of mind.  “Sleeping together” may have been more than a euphemism, perhaps a description of an deep intimacy that may be difficult to attain today. [Read more...]

The World Beyond Your Head

Matthew Crawford, a philosopher who has found wisdom in being a motorcycle mechanic, is the author of an excellent book on vocation entitled Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work.  He now has another book that shows how the Enlightenment has given us a very distorted view of the self, one which insulates the inner mind from outside reality.  The new book has the felicitous title  The World Beyond Your Head.

After the jump, I excerpt and link to an extremely thoughtful and perceptive review of the book, one that interacts with Crawford’s ideas with great learning and insight.  I was stunned to see that the reviewer is Gracy Olmstead, a recent student of mine!  I can see Patrick Henry College’s classical liberal arts curriculum underlying her essay, as she draws on the “great books” that we have read and takes part in the “great conversation” of the history of ideas.  Note too the depth of her thinking and how she compares to other recent graduates that you might have encountered.  Sorry–I’m just proud of her, that’s all. [Read more...]

A masculinity crisis from porn & gaming

A leading psychologist is saying that pornography and video games are crippling young men in their ability to have relate to women and to the real world outside themselves.  Philip Zombardo goes so far as to say that excessive use of porn and gaming is actually rewiring the male brain, as these new means of hyper-stimulation alter the normal pleasure centers, throwing off young men’s social development.  From the Amazon blurb on his book Man (Dis) Connected:

Zimbardo argues that readily available hardcore pornography and exciting gaming realities provide digital alternatives that are less demanding and far more appealing for many than sex, sports and social interaction in the real world. Immersion in these alternative realms is playing havoc with these boys’ cognitive development, their ability to concentrate and their social development, allowing girls to excel in the real world where social skills are a source of success.

More on his findings after the jump. [Read more...]

A scholarly study of anti-Christian bigotry

Sociologist George Yancey has conducted a study of people who are bigoted against Christianity.  He has found that conservative Christians share at least one thing with atheists:  both are hated by large numbers of people.  (Half of the public hate atheists, but a third hate conservative Christians.)   Prof. Yancey has found that “Christianophobia” is similar to bigotry against racial and ethnic groups and is found  largely among affluent white people.

Prof. Yancey tells about his study after the jump, which includes a link to his book on the subject, So Many Christians, So Few Lions:  Is There Christianophobia in the United States? [Read more...]

Family, country, God–in that order

The Barna pollsters have released a study of what factors tie into Americans’ self-identity.  The biggest factor by far is  “family.”  Then comes “country.”  Then comes religion.  Other elements, such as career and ethnicity, play a lesser but still significant role.  The mix is different according to different demographics.  After the jump, an excerpt and a link to the report, for more details. [Read more...]

Male abortions & the end of “women’s issues”?

Feminism and gender politics in general may be coming apart, since gender  identity is being parsed into ever-smaller mutually offended units.  To so much as speak of “women’s issues” is now considered in some of these circles to be oppressive to transexuals, an act of “cissexism,” defined as “transphobia.”  To the point that some pro-abortion groups are eliminating references to women, since non-women (such as transexuals who used to be women but now identify as men, as well as “gender queer people” and “two spirit people”) also can have abortions.  So explains Katherine Timpf, after the jump. [Read more...]


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