A few weeks ago Anne Glenny offered me an opportunity to look through some of Don’s books and select those which I wanted. This is always a sacred and privileged moment, to go through a fellow minister’s library. This occasion was all the more poignant because of the specialness of Don and the legacy he left upon those that met and knew him. One of the books I choose was by George Steiner entitled Real Presence, which explores philosophically the transcendent reality, grounded in all genuine art and human communication.
When I pick up a book marked by a previous reader, I am curious what intrigued, challenged and or invited them to look at life in another way. When Don had read through this particular book, he had marked it extensively in pencil. One such marking was for these words:
‘The philological space, on the contrary, is that of the expectant, of the risks of trust taken in the decision to open a door.’
Of course in attempting to understand these words, it is important to know the context in which they were written by the author. However, I am going to attempt to offer an interpretation of this statement. The author is suggesting that in our study of literary texts, we come to the text, expectant that we will enter a different world. This world may challenge and evoke for us a variety of thoughts and emotions, which may take us into a transcendent experience.
You reading this may think this is just gobbledegook and question what I am actually saying, so for the sake of ensuring clear communication. Let me further explain. When we read a book, hear a piece of music, hear or speak a poem, something happens inside of us, it is like a door has opened and we enter into another world. At times we may be uncertain what that other world or other realm will be, but we are transported into another time and place.
There is something about this sentence that intrigues me, the idea of opening a door within, to step over a threshold, from one realm to another fires my imagination.
Each day of our lives, from the moment we awake, get out of bed, we go through doors and cross thresholds. This happens in many areas of our lives, but we don’t always appreciate that we are actually opening a door and trust is involved. When we open a door, very often we do that action automatically. We want to get into our car, or enter our home, opening a door can be an automatic gesture requiring no conscious awareness on our part, we just do it.
If we pause, and become aware of what we are doing, this will offer moments of gratitude for the presence of the vehicle in our lives or the place of our home and what it offers us along with the memories each room holds.
The metaphor of opening a door offers so much for the imagination, including opening doors within ourselves, to become aware along with offering the possibility to reclaim those parts of ourselves we may have closed off.
Recall a time you planned to go somewhere new, how did you feel, excited or somewhat apprehensive; yet, you went. Doing something new or going to a place we have not been before, is like opening a door, crossing a threshold and entering into a room we have not been in before. In that room we may experience a range of emotions from being anxious and uncertain to a calmness of spirit, delighting in the wonder and beauty of the moment.
In various communications with other human beings, we actually open doors, we leave the comfort of our place and meet the other on mutual ground. Trust always hovers around us and we know perhaps instinctively or intuitively that it is feels safe to be here at this moment.
Sometimes, we stand at doors of rooms and places that are familiar to us; we know what is beyond the threshold. We open the door, we enter as we have done many times before, we see the familiar, it is still the familiar, the mystery or mystique has gone. Our soul is malnourished without the place of mystery in our lives. We need to find ways to ensure the familiarity of the familiar is never taken for granted.
Before, I continue on, I want to mention that there are some rooms in our lives, which have been closed behind us. They have been closed by the visit of grief and loss. The death of a loved one, instantly closes a door to a room, we will not be coming back to. No matter, how long that door has been closed, in the mystery of grief, it may seem like it was closed just yesterday. We remain on one side, with our memories which bring a mix of thoughts and emotions.
While at other times, we stand before doors, we have deliberately closed off like a room in the house of our lives. For we secretly hope that by closing off that part of our life, it will go away and no longer bother us or intrude upon our life as we are attempting to create it. We have locked it, may be, and even put a padlock on ensuring it is never again opened, or even bricked up the door. But we forget that we have left part of ourselves in that room. It takes courage to re-enter a place that holds painful memories. To open doors, long closed, throwing open the curtains and letting the light once more shine in, requires courage and an overcoming of fear.
The story is told of a man who found himself lost, he stumbled across an old stone hut, it was night, the moon was shining through a broken window. The man could just make out in the corner of the hut what appeared to be a snake coiled. He froze with fear, hardly daring to move. The morning came and as the sun shone through the window, he saw what he assumed was a snake was just an old rope lying in the corner.
Sometimes we create a reality, which actually is not helpful for our lives. We can very easily become paralysed by what we think may happen, when actually it may never happen quite how we imagine it would be. Allan Pease has a mnemonic for FEAR
It takes courage to face the reality of our lives, for we never know what we will find when we open a particular door that we have consciously decided to keep closed.
To honestly face ourselves, to open those doors, long closed, to throw open the curtains and let the light of life come in, is always an act of courage and trust. It is never easy, but the rewards are such, that we are once more in control of our lives, instead of the painful past seeking to control and dominate our thinking, for fear has given way to love. For we have fallen in love with solid ground and delighting in the wonder and beauty of opening doors into LIFE.