Thursday, March 16, 2006


Doorways. I know they’re somewhere hereabouts; portals from this world to another, from this place of tangible things, visible happenings, to a parallel universe where those things are revealed as merely the intersection of a greater reality with our poor senses.

You can be walking, or running, or stumbling along whatever path your day should lead you down, minding your own business, getting on with whatever life happens to be bringing at that moment, when without warning you discover you’ve walked through a portal and find yourself in that parallel universe.

I stumbled against one such doorway today; in an unguarded moment, I leaned against the words of Annie Dillard and the unseen doorway unexpectedly yielded; I fell forward and found that the door had morphed into a liquid one-way mirror, and part of me had detached itself and was now in the parallel universe, watching the world from the other side.

“You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.”

[… ]

“I have a taste for solitude, and silence, and for what Plotinus called “the flight of the alone to the Alone…"

“You quit your house and country, quit your ship, and quit your companions in the tent, saying, “I am just going outside and may be some time.” The light on the far side of the blizzard lures you. You walk, and one day you enter the spread heart of silence, where lands dissolve and seas become vapour and ices sublime under unknown stars. This is the end of the Via Negativa, the lightless edge where the slopes of knowledge dwindle, and love for its own sake, lacking an object, begins.”

From an essay “An Expedition to the Pole” by Annie Dillard, in which the search for the Pole is a metaphor for other searches of the spirit. Published in “Teaching a Stone to Talk”.

It didn’t last, of course. Life, as they say, intervened. A voice called: “The next station is White City” and I drew back, and the liquid doorway rippled and grew hard once more.

Back in the hard-edged world of tangible reality, all I can see is that which can be appreciated by dull senses; only the visible, tactile shell of the world. Neither that which is within, nor that which is beyond – the “spread heart” - is available to those senses. Light bounces off that one-way mirror and reflects back unchanged - nothing leaks through from the other side. Two universes might coexist; I might even acknowledge that intellectually – indeed I dwelt on the other side of that mirror for many a day, but then one day woke up to find myself back on this side, with no portal to the other side of the mirror.

But on occasion, such as this morning, I find myself by chance on the other side of the mirror where I find the real real world; I look back and see myself and those around me acting out a life that bears more than a passing resemblance to The Truman Show.

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