The Doors of Perception
I was just seven when I first encountered Jim Morrison and the Doors. Light My Fire was big on the rock music scene, and I had a transistor radio which I carried around with me. WABC played all the popular songs and Light My Fire climbed high on the charts, reaching number 3 and staying there for weeks.
I could know nothing of Jim, who was some thirteen years older than me. I remember hearing Hello, I Love You and considering it simple and childish, especially when compared with Jumping Jack Flash by the Rolling Stones and Sunshine of Your Love by Eric Clapton. I was not too impressed by the Doors and thought nothing of them until many years later.
At a month shy of thirty I had a major breakdown, and within three months I was in a day center. There I met music moguls who just happened to have schizophrenia. They taught me a lot about rock. I listened to L.A. Woman, became familiar with Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine, The Soft Parade, and the lulling rhthyms of The End. I had written off the Doors too soon, I realized. Then began years of studying their history and music. I was fascinated by Jim, whom I considered to be something of a lyric poet and amateur shaman.
And then I read why he had named the band, The Doors. He considered it an allusion to different types of perception. We were in the rooms of this world, he believed, and there were doors that led to other worlds. His music was a way of providing a path into these worlds. The drugs and alcohol that finally killed him were conduits for perception.
My first novel, Climbing Toward November, was written fly-by-night and I didn’t really think about what I was writing. But my subconscious was working its own magic. Some early chapters were about hanging a door on the room where I lived. There was trouble doing that. The represented to me security, safety, warmth, enclosure, privacy.
Again, for some years I did not think of doors too much. There was a marriage, which I chronicled in Pause in the Western Rhythm, and there was so much difficulty in it I could not think of alternate perceptions. I was in a box of an apartment. Whenever I turned the knob on the front door he would bellow at me.
“Where are you going? What are you doing?”
Sometimes he would block me from going out, sometimes he would run after me and bring me home.
The closed, secure, locked door had turned on me. It no longer represented freedom within, my own protected sacred space. It had become a source of control, entrapment and imprisonment.
I have come to the point where I come and go freely. I walk through the rooms of the apartment, the rooms are open or curtained, the doorways give passage from one place to the other.
But I consider it only partial liberty. I know now that doorways are pathways to the unknown, to the future, to some kind of freedom. But to me, it is necessary to walk back and forth amid the rooms and doorways, to experience the change in reality without fear of being locked in or locked out.
I have a muse, her name is Naimh. Naimh (pronounced Neve) is the Gaelic word for fairy. My Naimh sprung from my subconscious. She is a young woman, tall and slender, with long blond flyaway hair and blue eyes full of anger and unmitigated contempt for anything and anybody false. Naimh had a hard life. She was brought up in the foster system and lived in a half-way house. Her life is a life of scars and tenacious survival.
Like a fairy, she travels where she wills, untethered. Like a fairy, any hint of entrapment is met with vicious defiance. She is formidable, uncontrollable. She is my creativity, imagination, my stories, my memory and vision. She needs me to do the work, but I cannot do the work without her inspiration. We work together, when we work at all, and she will tolerate no bullshit from me.
That is why, when, some days ago, I lay in my room thinking that marriage might not be so bad, after all, that Sharif might actually be a good guy, I was startled and dismayed to have the mental vision of a big white door slamming in my face. The door, in my mind, had been half-opened for some time, waiting for me to walk through it. My acceptance of a less than ideal situation had caused someone to slam the door shut. And I knew it was Naimh.
So I banged on the door and pleaded with her to give me another chance. Then I turned the knob and pushed the door half-way open.
There was a bright room there, filled with golden light. Naimh was there, in cutoff shorts and sneakers, working at a computer, busy and totally absorbed. There were some helper fairies around her. I could see the room, the activity, the bright golden light.
The door is half open now. Naimh grimly allows me to watch as she works. I cannot think, for one second, that acceptance is an option. I must walk through that door. But there is a long hallway in front of it, and all Naimh asks is that I keep my choices open as I wrestle with my love of security, and my knowledge that we all must walk through doors into new realities before our time is up.
Sometimes doors are locked or stuck and have to be pryed open. Sometimes the doorway is so wide we don’t know when we are walking through them.
And so I maintain that our hearts may take refuge behind closed doors, but we must be careful that we are not imprisoned. A half-open door ensures we are not totally trapped and we can see beyond our current situation.
And Jesus spoke of doors.
“Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone open it, I will come in, and I will sup with them, and they will sup with me.”