Sleep on It: Darkness Helps Us See the Light

5 Min read


Pattern seeker

1 Podcast rec

Digit dork alert – Fibonacci, Golden Ratio





A three-for, a chief in triplicate, the Don at the podium was the Don of adolescence, the Don of agency, and the Don of business school. Three actual people in one. I could not pinpoint the contours of his face or the sound of his voice though he was there, most definitely there.

The task was nebulous, ominous in the need to be done in a fixed amount of time: a mathematical proof. a puzzle, a nonlinear map.

Vaguely unsettling. This feeling was not from a nightmare but from a sense of perplexity and awe at how to derive the way forward, take the first step. Others progressed and I remained inert, inactive, in-able. The feeling on waking remains, perhaps the same feeling on going to sleep.

Sleep on it. When I have something on my mind, I think on it before sleeping. It may be simple, like what to wear to a formal event and a mental review of my wardrobe. It may be complex, like distilling a life of someone I do not know into 400 words for an obituary. I wake with a sense of the way forward. On occasion, I dream.

The dream may have a message. The Don of agency is the current challenge, finding the right literary agent to work with, in a new and complex environment for me, publication of my first book. The two other Dons were teachers in my life, in high school and business school. Could they be nudging me in Don’s direction?


Don–the actual literary agent as opposed to the dream composite–mentioned the GoodFellows* podcast produced by the Hoover Institution and I listened to the current episode about demographics. The panelists include senior fellows Niall Ferguson, H.R. McMaster, and John Cochrane. McMaster was the 25th U.S. National Security Advisor and is a retired lieutenant general with 34 years of leadership experience. The panelists discussed recruitment shortfalls in the military and McMaster addressed this in detail. Towards the end, they discussed war films and McMaster shared an observation which resonated. Movies generally fail to depict the individual soldier, the reasons he or she fights.

McMaster’s closing remark and earlier discussion about the warrior ethos and sense of teamwork are important ideas in my book.

In dreams I don’t recall a sense of smell or sound. I tend to know or understand others without talking. This helps me realize that I am in a dream. That was not the case this time. A pattern began to unfold, or so I believed, sifting through the static to piece together the message. A friend asked about the brain and music, a relationship she knows I see as closely intertwined. We discussed Kevin Dobbe’s interactive art works which incorporate art, sound, and color using the Fibonacci sequence.*


Fibonacci discovered the sequence which includes numbers whose sum is the previous two numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, and so on. The sequence is widely evident in nature, in the growth pattern of flower petals, leaves, fruit seeds. Understanding the series has helped us understand nature, patterns, even stock performance.

And, patterns help us grapple with the chaos and disorder all around us. For those who wish to know more, this series approaches the Golden Ratio or the Divine Proportion, which is simply the quotient of one number over the previous number in the series. As the series gets larger it approaches the irrational number, phi, or approximately 1.618 whose inverse is 0.618. Pretty cool, right? It’s fascinating as a pattern to artists, philosophers, engineers, and everyday folks, though we may not know it. You see such patterns in the shell of the chambered nautilus and in pine cones, or in the symmetry of a human face.

As for my dream of the Dons, the Goodfellows podcast, and the Fibonacci sequence Dobbe incorporates in his art, how has this all helped? Oddly enough, it has. Sleep is a reality for all living things. Sleep science and studies have shown us a lot more about the essential role it has in our health. In sleep is darkness, a circadian rhythm foundational to human life.


You could say, the quality of our sleep defines or shapes the quality of our waking hours. The dream about stasis or inertia around my current problem has everything to do with understanding the pattern around my activity when I am awake. Seeing the “Dons” role in the dream story and considering that, along with ideas from the podcast, and Dobbe’s obsession with patterns have helped me recognize a kind of Golden Ratio, a step forward given the information I have at the moment.

Will the pattern or story progress as I imagine? Maybe. If not, then I review and adjust. Or I may have to sleep on it.


I took this photo of the “candle” in Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon in Arizona



*GoodFellows Podcast: from site: “A weekly Hoover Institution broadcast, features senior fellows John Cochrane, Niall Ferguson, and H.R. McMaster discussing the social, economic, and geostrategic ramifications of this changed world.” The topics McMaster addressed hit on big ideas and themes in my book and gave me new and helpful insight.

*Kevin Dobbe. New media artist and composer, Ph.D. Music Education, Master of Music, Vocal Performance. Design and philosophy for an interactive media creation: Fibonacci Chimes, UW-Madison. Incorporates light, music, art, technology with theory behind scale, algorithms, ratios. I want to see his work in person. Patterns rule his world and he opens with an argument that Homo Sapiens or knowing man (wise man) should be dubbed Pattern Seeking man, or Pattern Seeker (Exemplum Peto).

*The relationship with light and darkness–in the photo above and in life–resembles that of waking hours and sleep or that of life and death, or as discussed in an earlier letter, joy and sorrow. In this bittersweet duality I consider the flawed notion of perfect love in Susan Cain’s latest book. It is particularly interesting then, the Fibonacci sequence exhibits the Golden Ratio or phi, the pleasing and logical proportion, and a perhaps a way forward.

Mar 27, 2023


About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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