I’m quite interested in the possible avenues of philosophizing out of the mood of insomnia — how it shreds the so-called default state of the self — and whether insomnia can show us a more acute state of consciousness that is no longer slave to the conventional understanding of the world. Speaking from experience, insomnia helps me understand the darker aspects of existence (anxiety, angst, dread, despair, etc) and relate to writers like Beckett, Cioran.
Where Heidegger thought philosophically Levinas puts into practice and the difference between the philosophical view & the lived supercharges the concept of anxiety. An anxiety that leaves room for sleep cannot be truly authentic, for Levinas. Here, Levinas offers us an austere view of insomnia: an ethical responsibility or wakefulness, because he thinks it is a constant duty that cannot ever sleep… but a wakefulness without intentionality. Levinas thinks insomnia is the source of insight:
“The entire opening of consciousness would already be a turning towards the something over which wakefulness watches. It is necessary, however, to think an opening that is prior to intentionality, a primordial opening that is an impossibility of hiding: one that is an assignation & impossibility of hiding in oneself; this opening is an insomnia.
However, insomnia in Levinas’ system seems a celibate metaphor for impartial & incorporeal thought.
As the writer of limit-experiences, Blanchot muses that insomnia is the experience of impossible, a night of utter vigilance with neither expectation nor exemption, a night that bleeds into the next day.
In the night, insomnia is discussion, not the works of arguments bumping against other arguments, but the extreme shuddering of no thoughts, percussive stillness. — Blanchot
Moreover, the arch pessimist Cioran blithely dismisses all Levinas’ high-flown talk and claims that “Every problem, if we get to the bottom of it leads to bankruptcy and leaves the intellect exposed: no more question and no more answers in a space without horizon.”
Instead of something impartial & incorporeal, Cioran includes the body and its attendant sufferings. Where Levinas praises insomnia as incorruptible consciousness, an ideal state for expansive philosophical reflection, Cioran exposes the stark narcissism of insomnia.
“[Insomniacs] suffer from everything, and to excess: the winds will seem gales; every touch a dagger; smiles, slaps; trifles, cataclysms.”