A conversation between Detectives Rust Cohle, played by Matthew McConaughey, and Martin Hart, played by Woody Harrelson on True Detective Season 1, Episode 1:
Rust Cohle: I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware. Nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself. We are creatures that should not exist by natural law.
Martin Hart: That sounds God-fucking awful, Rust.
Cohle: We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self. This secretion of sensory experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each some body. When in fact everybody is nobody.
Hart: I wouldn’t go around spouting that shit if I were you. People around here don’t think that way. I don’t think that way.
Cohle: I think the honorable thing for our species to do is to deny our programming. Stop reproducing. Walk hand in hand into extinction. One last midnight, brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.
Hart: So, what’s the point of getting out of bed in the morning?
Cohle: I tell myself I bear witness. The real answer is that it is obviously my programming and I lack the constitution for suicide.
I go on two-hour walks a few times a week. One hour and usually one podcast episode one way and an hour and another podcast episode back home. I walk on a mostly tree-lined path by the river. I always mentally chastise the residents of my city for not taking advantage of this respite from suburban existence and at the same time I wish no one knew about it but me.
On Monday’s walk, the weather was scorching: sunny and humid, but with a breeze I was grateful for. Soon I’ll be one of those women I see with over sized hats and sunglasses and an umbrella because there are only so many times I can almost get heat stroke. The trees along parts of the path provide some much-needed shade.
Thankfully, I brought water because by the time I got home, I was parched. The two-hour walk seemed like a four-hour walk in that sun and with only one new podcast episode to listen to. As Linda Holmes (host of one of my favorite podcasts, Pop Culture Happy Hour) tweeted, “Dear almost every podcast I listen to: MAKE MORE FASTER.”
Probably because of too much sun, too much walking, not enough water, I had a headache by the time I arrived home. It felt like my brain was baked and it was about to explode. I drank a lot of icy water but the pressure didn’t abate.
The only cure would be sleep.
I slept well. Fitfully at first and then I descended into deep sleep for nine hours. I didn’t want to wake up. I felt like I wasn’t allowed to wake up. Something was pulling me back into my dreams. It was like I didn’t need sleep but time to dream.
The headache was gone when I awoke. But, I had this feeling I wasn’t dreaming but being dreamt.
It felt like my consciousness was being used to dream. But used by whom?
I encounter a lot of animals on my walks. Both alive and dead. I see so many dead animals. I see a lot of chipmunks. And all kinds of birds. Every time I encounter a bird I say silently to myself and to the bird “I’m OK. You don’t have to be afraid and fly away.” But the bird always flies away.
I envy birds (and all animals) because they don’t wonder who they are. What they do is defined by who they are and there’s no questioning who they are so what they do is clear. They’re too busy doing bird stuff to be aware of being a bird. Unlike human beings.
Self-awareness does feel like a curse sometimes. Endlessly asking “Who are we?” We don’t have an answer to this fundamental question. Birds do. Maybe questioning who we are is who we are?
More and more often I’m waking up from dreams confused about what’s real. Did I say or think this in a dream or when I was awake? Are we always dreaming?
I don’t know if I agree with Rust Cohle but I identified with him for thinking that way. Sometimes I want to be one of those people who don’t think that way.
Annie from Bull Durham: “The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.”
Maybe I think too much.