Stay Awake! Or Watch How the Whales Sleep – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
We can learn from the whales and dolphins. They have a degree of intelligence that often surprises humans. Along with other mammals, humans need to enter an unconscious state when asleep in order to function properly. We normally do that each night, or at other times, for those who work shifts or those who suffer from insomnia.
Whales and dolphins do not have the luxury of curling up for a few hours or covering themselves with a duvet. Nor do they need sleeping aids (though there may be enough in the oceans, as a result of medications tossed in the toilet). There are almost always predators nearby. Whales and dolphins sleep by shutting down one half of their brain at a time.
In this way, the animal is never completely unconscious. But it still gets the sleep it needs. This is known as logging. The animal is moving slowly on the surface, one eye alert to the activity going on around them, ready to spring into action within a split second.
Our Gospel today offers an invitation to a sort of spiritual logging, always being semi aware of what is going on around and within us. We aren’t necessarily focused on predators, but rather on spiritual movements. This kind of logging is known as being discerning, being alert to the signs going on within us.
Those signs can be daydreams, desires, fears, things I love, things I hate, recollections of someone or something that I have seen, emotions rising within me, memories from long ago, an active imagination, and so much more. Everything is a possible subject for discernment.
The vast majority of movements can be ignored, but there is always something that tries to wake us up and say, “Hey! This is important. Wake up and pay attention.” Ask yourself what it is pointing to. Is it moving me closer to the truth of who I am and closer to God? Or it is moving me into a negative space, for instance self-pity? Is it from God, or is it a source of disturbance?
The spiritually logging person has an eye out for movements. Can I trust this movement, or it a source of dissonance? We may not need to spring into action, but the material that surfaces may cause us to wake up and pay closer attention to something surfacing within us.
Jesus offers the illustration of five wise bridesmaids who were prepared and had taken along flasks of oil. They are contrasted with the five foolish bridesmaids who failed to think ahead. His simple lesson is to “keep awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Be prepared and stay alert. Keep one eye open! The wise bridesmaids were able to fall asleep waiting for the groom, because they had extra oil for their lamps.
This Sunday’s Gospel is actually a good reminder of the liturgical season just around the corner. Advent is a four-Sunday lesson on being prepared by staying awake. Why not get a head start on keeping one eye open.