“Because we are all like poets and babies in the middle of the night, struggling with being.” I came across this line in London Fields by Martin Amis a few years ago and I haven’t forgotten it since. It is true. When we are awake in the middle of the night with only our thoughts before us, we feel what babies feel: an unvarnished experience of being when we are at our most vulnerable. Without the protective veils of our roles in work or in our families, we feel the raw experience of being alive without any filters, like a baby or a poet.
This recalls the Sufi story of the Seventy Thousand veils:
Seventy thousand veils separate God, the One Reality, from the world of matter and sense. And every soul passes before his birth through these seventy thousand. The inner half of these are veils of light: the outer half, veils of darkness. For every one of the veils of light passed through, in this journey towards birth, the soul puts off a divine quality: and for every one of the dark veils, it puts on an earthly quality. Thus the child is born weeping, for the soul knows its separation from God, the One reality. And when the child cries in its sleep, it is because the soul remembers something of what it has lost.
-The Mystics of Islam By Reynold A. Nicholson