The Metaphysics of Doors
I have what could be considered a mild, although likely to most, dry and banal, obsession with doors. What has always drawn me to them is not only the mystery of the other side but the meaning of the spaces that they divide, both imagined and physical. Doors certainly stand in the way of physical space, but in no way do the impede imagined space. They force one to ask what is beyond them or to ponder what the exact purpose it is that they are serving. An inquisitive mind might draw certain conclusions based on design, architecture, adornment or general aesthetic to identify their purpose or what is beyond them, but lacking a key or the appropriate access, what is behind a door will remain a mystery.
A la porte de la maison qui viendra frapper?
Une porte ouverte on entre
Une porte fermée un antre
Le mondre bat l’autre côte de ma porte.
At the door of the house who will coming knocking?
An open door, we enter
A closed door, a den
The world pulse beats beyond my door.
Pierre Albert Birot
Les Amusements Naturels
Conversely, doors can act as protection from the large and often overwhelming nature of the world and our universe. The agoraphobics best friend. A heavy wooden door standing between ourselves and the world. In the same way we might imagine what it is like to be outdoors when we are too ill to leave our homes. Daydreams of opening the door to bright beams of sunlight, the days bronze glow.
Why it’s simply impassible!
Alice: Why, don’t you mean impossible?
Door: No, I do mean impassible. (chuckles) Nothing’s impossible!
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
The ideal door represents something of an impasse. But this is pure myth. The mind is like a Trojan horse when it comes to doors. Besides, a spirited adventurer can always find a window and where there is no window a window can be made. A fluid imagination can fit into any keyhole and where the imagination fails brute force can open most walls. After all, what else is a door for if not to cover a hole in a wall?
If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.
William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
What is worse: to be locked in? or to be locked out? // Or is one comfortable simply being the door?
It’s doors I’m afraid of because I can’t see through them, its the door opening by itself in the wind I’m afraid of.
Margaret Atwood, Surfacing.
The voyeur can already imagine what is beyond a door, it is their curiosity and fear of being caught which compels them to peep. The voyeur knows what it feels like to be watched and this is a part of their reward. Though they feel it is not an act of cowardice, it is being labeled a coward that they fear. Of course, it isn’t the door which prevents the voyeur from entering the room. They are always present, they are omnipresent. No door can prevent the gaze of the minds-eye. In this sense, the door is a distraction when we center our fears on it. For it would be foolish for the voyeur to peep through the keyhole when the window is wide open. Perhaps we shouldn’t fear what is on the other side of the door (who or what is looking in), but instead, we ought to learn to fear what is already inside the room as we stare into another sort of door: the mirror. The reflection of a voyeur trying to peek somewhere into their own soul.
From up here, nothing of Argia can be seen; some say, “It’s down below there,” and we can only believe them. The place is deserted. At night, putting your ear to the ground, you can sometimes hear a door slam.
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
The door might express her loneliness and neglect with a crack or a creak. The only voice she has is the voice of her handler. A door is an emotional barometer. The sound of a door can alert us, strike our hearts with, or fill us with joy. If we listen carefully enough to her wisdom and council, we can take her advice as if it were our own. The door might also express our emotions. Is there a better way to say “Fuck Off!” than with the slamming of a door?
There is in Fantastica a certain place from which one can go anywhere and which can be reached from anywhere. We call it the Temple of a Thousand Doors. No one has ever seen it from outside. The inside is a maze of doors. Anyone wishing to know it must dare to enter it.
Grograman, in Ch. XV : Grograman, the Many-Colored Death
Michael Ende, The Neverending Story
A single door represents the infinite nature of the space that surrounds it. We must keep in mind that one can go anywhere simply by opening a door and stepping through it. In this sense, all doors are one and the same.
I know they accuse me of arrogance, and perhaps misanthropy, and perhaps of madness. Such accusations (for which I shall exact punishment in due time) are derisory. It is true that I never leave my house, but it is also true that its doors (whose numbers are infinite) (footnote: The original says fourteen, but there is ample reason to infer that, as used by Asterion, this numeral stands for infinite.) are open day and night to men and to animals as well. Anyone may enter.
Jorge Luis Borges, The House of Asterion
Fourteen doors. Seven doors ajar, all opening into the wilderness. The remaining doors open to and connect seven identical rooms. Identical except for the room whose door exits to the knotted twisting wilderness outside, and faces directly south. All of the rooms share three doors, two connecting each room and one to the outside. All of the rooms except the middle one facing the south are painted a beautiful sea-foam green. The middle room, being special, appears gold to some, while to others it is more of a ruby-red. Before entering the House of Asterion, one must already understand Zeno’s dichotomy paradox. Fourteen is indeed infinite as are the ways to enter and exit the house through the seven doors one might enter. While the rooms are identical, they are also profoundly different and depending on whose foot hollows out her floorboards the house will always be experienced differently by different folk. Asterion is a hospitable patron to his home, but his hospitality must first be reached for no matter what room one enters, it will seem as if Asterion is somehow and forever in the next.
* A suspicious note: one woman reported that during her visit to Asterion’s house, she swore she could always see herself exiting a room as she was entering it. She would see the tail of her dress across the room as if it were entering the next door. Of the middle room, she noted, if she reached her hand through one door, she could see it coming through the door on the opposite side of the room. She reported never seeing or meeting Asterion but claimed that she came to know him very well. Upon leaving the house some years later, she also claimed that she had never known herself better. As she left the house she heard the voice of a man: “Would you believe it, Ariadne? The Minotaur scarcely defended himself.” So many doors that always remain open. Corridors where all the ghosts of the past pile up like the corpses of Babel.
What we need to question is bricks, concrete, glass, our table manners, our utensils, our tools, the way we spend our time, our rhythms. To question that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us. We live, true, we breathe, true; we walk, we open doors, we go down staircases, we sit at a table in order to eat, we lie down on a bed in order to sleep. How? Why? Where? When? Why?
Georges Perec, The Inra- Ordinary
There was once a cobbler who was born with a shell on his back. The children used to tease him. He lived a solitary and lonely life. After work everyday, he would go to have a pint of beer, eat a piece of bread with the daily soup, and read the newspaper at a pub between his shop and home. On the side of his shell was a door. He never questioned it. He never allowed his curiosity to lead him to wonder where the door went. It was just there, an old wooden door on the side of his monstrous shell. At the pub where he would frequent worked a pair of beautiful twins. One was shy like he and the other was outgoing and always dancing as she served patrons their drinks. Of one of the twins, the cobbler shared a secret love. But one twin would never do without the other. So the love remained latent, a dream. One evening as the pub was closing down the twins inquired about the cobbler’s shell and its door. The cobbler didn’t have much to say beyond telling them he was born with it. The twins decided that they should enter the door in the side of the shell and so they did. On the other side of the door was nothing. It was as if they had entered a time before time. A brilliant light began to glow as the door shut behind them. They disappeared into the cobblers shell. Hours and days passed. Nothing. They were gone forever the cobbler thought until one day a woman opened the door and crawled out of the shell. It was one of the twins, but she was different. Something about her eyes, her face, her hands. She hugged the cobbler embracing him with the strength of two women. He could feel her heartbeat behind her breast, but it was not only her heart beating … it was if there were two hearts. She couldn’t explain where she had been, and when she spoke she was speaking for two. The sisters had become one at the beginning of time it would seem. Years later the cobbler and the women would be married and their love would outlast time.
Good and evil have no self nature;
Holy and unholy are empty names;
In front of the door is the land of stillness and quiet;
Spring comes, grass grows by itself.
At some point a door is just a door. Paint it green, black, blue or gold … it will remain a door for that is its nature.
Listen: this world is the lunatic’s sphere,
Don’t always agree it’s real,
Even with my feet upon it
And the postman knowing my door
My address is somewhere else.
Hafiz, The Winks
If anyone knows your door, it is the postman. But our doors don’t always tell us where home is.
The door to the invisible must be visible.
Rene Daumal, Mount Analogue
What is on either side of a door must be holy. That is why it must be kept at bay. We might lock a world out or lock a world in. No matter, it is completely visible to those who wish to see it. The door does not disguise our secretive grandeur. It provides a point of access. To enter is to know and to see the unseen. But if we don’t feel comfortable entering through the door, sometimes the window is a better option. And we mustn’t forget that sometimes all we need to do is knock.