Friday, April 27, 2012

Doors closed; doors ajar; doors opening.

    When my wife and I were in China in the late '90's, we visited a very large Buddhist temple complex--the Lingyin Temple--outside the city of Hangzhou.  Of all the pictures I took at the temple, this one remains one of my favorites.  A beautiful closed door, with sandals awaiting their owner's return.  The overall sense to me was one of serenity, but with a sense of expectation, perhaps even adventure, most likely . . . duty.
     The memory of the door, and the photo returned to me the other night while I was watching the Hallmark biopic Temple Grandin (which starred Claire Danes and earned five Emmys).  Temple Grandin is an amazing woman who has not allowed her autism to keep her from success in many fields.  She is a fierce advocate for the autistic, but also an expert in animal science (she teaches at Colorado State University).  The movie frequently makes reference to her discomfort with doors; in one scene, she avoids one store for another because the first had a pneumatic door that disturbed her.  Doors appear in her mind as she tries to make decisions, and, finally, at a critical point, she seizes the opportunity to go through a "door", recognizing that something new and wonderful lay on the other side.
      And then, within a day or so of watching the film, I ran across a quotation from one of Emily Dickinson's poems:

        THE SOUL should always stand ajar.
          That if the heaven inquire,
       He will not be obliged to wait,
          Or shy of troubling her.*

And that reminded me of the passage from the New Testament book of Revelation:  "Listen, I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me" (Rev 3.20).
       Doors closed, doors ajar, doors opening.
       Closed doors are such for a reason.  That reason may as significant as security or privacy.  Or it may be to keep the breeze from rushing through the room, scattering all of the papers on the table.  Or it may be a simple fear, or hesitancy, to engage with that which is on the other side of the door.
       Doors ajar may be such by design or neglect.  Regardless, there is potentiality (to use the more archaic language) for "weal or woe".  What is inside may escape; what is outside may intrude.
       Doors opening are an invitation.  The one inside is invited to depart and be changed by whatever is encountered.  Or the one outside may be invited in to encounter and change the host.
       I love leaving my office door open (unless I'm in conference).  I never know what adventure might walk through.  I hope that the doors of my heart and mind are equally open to encounters that will stretch them.


*Emily Dickinson, Complete Poems, IV:  Time & Eternity, 121.  (found online here:

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