Saturday, November 3, 2012

...when a door closes


 All your questions can be answered,
if that is what you want.
But once you learn your answers,
you can never unlearn them.
Neil Gaiman, American Gods


I passed this stairway daily as I walked to and from the bed and breakfast in the Dorsoduro area of Venice. Only when I returned home did I notice the illusion in the photograph: a door opening to a wall of windows. In actuality, steps on the other side of the door lead down to another sidewalk alongside a small canal. The windows belong to a building on the other side. I know this because I climbed up and stuck my head through the opening. 

Kindly erase this explanation before you proceed. The scene now becomes a metaphor for life's vagueries...those moments of between and betwixt when a door has closed and a window is not yet open. That place where progress is measured one step at a time, not always forward. Upward and onward, through a portal that quickly shuts. Then down...down to a murky canal over which no bridge can be seen in either direction. Opposite, a wall of shuttered windows whispers, "Patience, faith. Wait." 

Bowed, contemplative, I stand before the mystery. Did I say bowed? Yeah, briefly...just before I scream,"Enough! Enough already! I can't stand it any longer! I need answers NOW!" Yes, I know that exclamation points and all-caps are frowned upon by teachers and editors. But I don't know how better to convey raw "instant-gratifcation-isn't-fast enough" moments.

I realize that ready answers are inevitably borrowed or, worse yet, my own creations...small, limiting, and ultimately unsatisfying. But if I am unwilling to accept "no" as an answer, can you imagine how no answer at all resonates with me?  Once upon an unnatural, transcendent, uppity moment, I journalled, "Finite answers pale in the face of an infinite universe." And God laughed.

 I'd stick with Rainer Maria Rilke's words if I were you:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves,
like locked rooms and like books that are now written 
in a very foreign tongue.
Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you 
because you wouldnot be able to live them. 
And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now. 
Perhaps you will then gradually,
without noticing it,
live along some distant day into the answer.
 

Love y'all more than my hairspray.
Hope you have a good one.

As for me,
I'm going to cook a big batch of garlicky beef stew
that we'll eat on the back porch
under billions and billions of stars.
Contemplation is easier this way.

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