Monday, April 6, 2015

A Sleepwalker's Guide to Enlightenment

by Anna Woodall

I remember that I'm invisible and walk softly so as not awake the sleeping ones. Sometimes it is best not to awaken them; there are few things in the world as dangerous as sleepwalkers.” 
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
When I was 16 years old I read Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison for the first time and I fell in love with the story. The story starts out with the protagonist introducing himself as an “invisible man.” His invisibility is not the result of some supernatural incident or miracle but simply because he is black. To those who consider him beneath themselves because of his race, he is in essence invisible. It also seems to him that the people around him are sleepwalking through life, lost in a dream. Yet he has an aching need to be seen, to be considered the same as everyone regardless of his color.
There are many reasons why a person might feel invisible:

  • Feeling that people don’t see you as you really are.
  • Believing that your current life is in some way unreal or at least it’s not the life you’re meant to be living.
  • Feeling that you don’t fit in with modern society.
  • Being bothered by the injustice that surrounds you.
  • Wanting to do more then just get by; wanting to change the world and not knowing how to begin.
For much of my life I have felt like something was wrong with the world. Or maybe it was something wrong with me? In reference to the ideas presented in Ellison’s story, we must understand that most people really don’t see what is going on around them. Maybe they are oblivious or they just choose not to see but in a subtle way this is a form of sleepwalking. It’s hard for me to stand by impassive and not speak out in some way. As a result of my rebellious nature, I have had difficulty fitting into the society in which I was born. I am constantly trying to figure out who I am and what my purpose is. Like the invisible man, I see what’s going on in the world and I’m angered by it. For him it was race and class segregation. For me it is corporate America, its genetically modified food; it’s the blinders that everyone likes to wear when they are sleepwalking.

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