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The ravelled sleeve of care


In the profoundest ocean

There is a rainbow shell,

It is always there, shining most stilly

Under the greatest storm waves

And under the happy little waves

That the old Greek called "ripples of laughter"

And you listen, the rainbow shell

Sings - in the profoundest ocean.

It is always there, singing most silently !


(The secret, by Katherine Mansfield )


Stilly is the genius here. Silent singing is one thing, but invisible shining another. What the poet describes is the still small voice, the unchangeable ‘glassy’ essence of what we are, that has nothing of the ego about it.


In our language the difference between I and Me is hard to pin down, but the ego, usually known as ‘I’ is better identified as ‘Me’ as in the expression Me! Me! Me! One possible picture of their relationship is of a light shining through ‘I’ to project the image ‘Me’. presenting the possibility of more than one such image, for example a daytime waking image and a nighttime image. Two me’s from the same I. Whatever I is, it may involve a single set of functions in the brain and once present, be put to more than one use.


There is one piece of evidence suggesting that this might be the case. No-one understands why sleep is necessary, but the effects of sleep deprivation on the personality are devastating. Some kind of repair, or maintenance, requires the essential feature of sleep, unconsciousness. From this it can be inferred either that consciousness ‘gets in the way’ or that it has to be re-assigned to another task, where the overwhelming consciousness of a second me, decorates or fleshes out, the still small voice of I

If there are two such me’s, can they know each other? One in charge of the body and the senses and the other somehow closely connected with the workings of the brain/mind need a common language and the poem suggests what it might be.

What could it feel like to be that second me, standing before the mind as our normal consciousness stands before the body. From our still limited understanding of evolution, it seems beyond belief that the brain could possess an intricate knowledge of its own detailed workings and be able to restore itself, but instead could confront itself in a global way to sense the pulsing forces acting around it and restore harmonious function like a musician playing on a grand, but mysterious, instrument; a sleep personality as alive as the waking personality. This question of harmony immediately raises the possibility that these personalities do indeed have a common language, the language of music which may provide a pointer to understanding the oerwhelming power of music in human lives.

We understand or feel that music is a language of the emotions and at heart that is has a true vocabulary, but one too complex to grasp and whose roots go very deep. At one end of the scale are those few (fortunate or otherwise) whose sleeping and waking personalities communicate well and at the other, those almost untouched by music.