Tuesday, October 13, 2009

the door to freedom

when rene magritte painted "the door to freedom" in 1936,
he might have been describing the shattering instant
in which the distance
between who a person is
and who they are to become
is laid bare.

on one side of the shattered window is a comfortable room.
on the other side, a grassy hill.
in the distance - the sea.
the glass shards contain elements
of the image beyond the room.
the glass shards have fallen inwards creating discomfort in the room.

i am drawn to see the view
beyond the window
- the world beyond myself -
and the shattered fragments of my understanding of that world . . .
lying on the floor.

the air blows in . . .
i imagine it warm and scented with grasses and wildflowers.

sounds - the breeze, the rustling grasses, birds.

the light passes through the glassless window
- clear and bright.
it illuminates a dusty floor.
the old paint on the walls.
shabby curtains.

the opening in the window
- like a star -
pulls me through.

are those paths in the meadows?
does one lead to the sea?
i hope so.

it's a destination.
a formless destination.
broad . . . expansive . . .
the opposite of the room i have lived in for all this time.

i have lived in rooms like this for most of my life.
i have sought them out when paths to the ocean lay before me.
those paths drew me like a moth to a light

but they also frightened me.

that expanse.
that great unknown.

so many fears, so many questions.
what is there when i arrive?
where do my rules fit?
where do they go?
what happens to my expectations?
what are they replaced by?

the not known often has greater power than the known.

the little rooms i have lived my life in are all labelled
"what i know".

the oceans are all labelled
"what i have been afraid to know".

the distance between what i know
and what i am afraid to know
is a measure of the suffering i have chosen.

to cross the space between the two is to pass through the door to freedom.

35 comments:

Delwyn said...

Hi Steven

I like this piece Steven...

It tells me more about you and your way of seeing the world.

It seems as if you see the painting as representative of a shattering awareness...an insight or illumination opening another world of possibilities.


You say the space between the room and the ocean is a measure of the suffering you have chosen...

is it a measure of being human and living a life in the only way we know how ...

a measure of a developing awareness...

and could it also be a measure of readiness...


I think that there is perfect timing and a perfect map to traverse the space between the two...
there is an agenda, a schedule and a plan that is not entirely in our hands...

and when you reach the destination ...what then you wonder...when you arrive...

perhaps you never really arrive, perhaps there is no destination...perhaps there will always be another vista...

Great thoughts and musings today...Thanks Steven...


Happy days

Phoenix said...

this one of the most insightful pieces of writing i have read.. i'm sure that many of us have felt this way... but to look at a painting, and witness so much of a person's inner battles is truly extraordinary!

steven said...

delwyn, thankyou for this lovely thinking.
it is "a measure of being human and living a life in the only way we know how". yes it is! i'm no averse to suffering, there's always something good comes from it and always learning. i'm bginning to know more of what you suggest about there in fact being no destination as such. more of a state of being - or not. have a lovely evening by the river. steven

steven said...

hello phoenix - thankyou for this thoughtful comment! it was one of those pieces of writing that i kept going back to and adding, removing, cutting-and-pasting, because i needed to get this out but it didn't say what was in me until i'd juggled and messed with it. have a peaceful day. steven

Jenny Stevning said...

The last two stanzas are amazing!

steven said...

well thankyou jenny!! have a peaceful day. steven

Titus said...

steven, this is a beautiful piece of writing and the journey you detail is both individual and yet resonant to so many others, myself included.
Good luck with your breaking through and out.

The Magritte picture is fascinating to me however, because the glass shards are on the inside, not outside, as if someone has broken in, and the reflections of what should be the room are actually more exterior. To me this has always suggested it is our perception that is often skewed, that what we seek is not "out there" but already present, except we don't see it.

Loved your take though, thank you.

Golden West said...

Maybe it's not so much "what you are afraid to know" as what you don't know yet. You seem to be moving forward all the time and I don't get a sense of fear. Quite the opposite, actually.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Lovely Steven. I especially like the part that says something like:
The distance between the measure of what I know and what I don't know is the measure of the suffering I have chosen . . . (forgive me I know I am not recalling it as you wrote it). How true - and important to contemplate that space of suffering. You always offer the gift of something rich to think about Steven. Thank you.

Pauline said...

What a thought provoking post. You say, "the distance between what i know
and what i am afraid to know
is a measure of the suffering i have chosen."

That reminds me of a passage from "The Quantity of a Hazelnut" which suggests that what you cannot accept, you must suffer. So true.

Reya Mellicker said...

I think if you open that door today, on the other side you'll find yourself at Willow's ball. Don't you think?

xxoo

Richard Jesse Watson said...

Steven, these are thoughts that nudge and stir my own connections to certain paintings. I have been so grateful for Magritte and the way he bends time/space and comfort. I like the way you describe your confrontation with this painting. It is indeed a threshold.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I like the way the path in the painting disappears over the hill - if you take that path you have no idea where it will lead you. Just like life really.

Verily I go. said...

....i have chosen." You make my brains cells phosphoresce. I love this one too Steven. My heart races to fears.

Friko said...

thank you so much for this post; I have never looked at this painting or any other as closely as this. You have shown me how to look.

To look into a painting and discover oneself!
I wouldn't have thought it possible.
thanks again.

Delwyn said...

Steven

I have looked at what Titus said..she is very observant..and yes the window was broken from the outside and yes the reflections are of the outside...now this takes your philosophical wanderings even further...

How was the window broken...hmmmmmmmmm the universe calls...

Happy days

steven said...

hi titus -
"the glass shards contain elements
of the image beyond the room.
the glass shards have fallen inwards creating discomfort in the room."
the position i'm describing is something that may of my readers likely experience themselves: shut in the room of their own understanding the outer world breaks in on their space and creates discomfort in the room. i really appreciate your take on this thinking - a lot!! steven

steven said...

hello golden west - yes very much so. people who know me, know to prepare me for transitions. the anticipation of the transition is excruciating for me. the transition is joyous! steven

steven said...

hi bonnie - thanks for that!! there's suffering in almost all choices. the degree and quality of it are left entirely to the discretion of the person to whom it applies. steven

steven said...

hello pauline - the link to julian of norwich through this book is inspiring all on its own. but the essential message: ""never mind pleasure, search out joy." resonates dearly and deeply with this man!!!! been there done that .... pleasure is transient and offers me little real joy. thanks for this. steven

steven said...

reya - i'm gently immersed in that fantasy as i write!! sweet slinkydance dreams in dc reya. steven

steven said...

hi richard - thanks for your thoughts here. your work has connections to magritte!! i rethought my knowing in a flass and there it was. mmmm hmmmm!!! steven

steven said...

it's just like life really weaver!!! that's one of the scariest and best parts of it i find. steven

steven said...

ahhh verily "phosphoresce" - lovely sweet!!! i love the edge of fear when it's to do with discovering something deeper richer more meaningful and more truthful. it's frightening yes and makes my heart quicken but in the course of my life i have to go there. steven

steven said...

hello friko - some paintings afford that opportunity. some. this one - as soon as saw it i knew - opened up and each detail felt like it spoke. there's more im sure but for now this one describes this very moment in my life. steven

Dan Gurney said...

What interests me most about Maritte's painting is that the glass shards inside the room reflect the scene outside the room. How could that occur unless the outside elements are ALREADY inside the room?

The pane of glass that seemed to separate the outdoors from the indoors has shattered. Now in and out are joined.

Magritte seems to suggest that distinctions between "outside" and "inside" are not as real as they ordinarily seem.

Perhaps the "space" between the known and unknown does not exist. Are past and future versions of ourselves fully present right now? Is the "outside" already "inside"?
Magritte's painting prompts these questions in me.

steven said...

dan there's a point in that comment that holds my attention - the idea that the outside and the inside are not actually dstinct and that there is a oneness that actually assumes no dstinction . . . no "space" between the known and unknown. we have experienced that blurring, that non-existence, that lack of a continuous line between past present future dan. past present future steven. haven't we? thanks for this dan steven

Margaret Pangert said...

That was an amazing elucidation of that painting, Steven. "The opening in the window, like a star, pulls me through." It's as though the person living in this room was stuck--and stuck for a long time--until he was finally able to break through. There is a destination out there! What a wonderful realization that you can change and live a different kind of life!

Jennifer said...

I think you have a strong point created in the first stanza - "the shattering instant in which the distance between who a person is and who they are to become is laid bare." Becoming is not a question, but a certainty. Fears will be overcome. Unknown become known.

Secondly, you describe the picture as portraying the "instant," and not a process. Smash - the boundary is broken. Just then - you know and you are there - "who you are to become."

Steven, this is an amazingly perceptive piece. Thank you.

Jennifer said...

I think you have a strong point created in the first stanza - "the shattering instant in which the distance between who a person is and who they are to become is laid bare." Becoming is not a question, but a certainty. Fears will be overcome. Unknown become known.

Secondly, you describe the picture as portraying the "instant," and not a process. Smash - the boundary is broken. Just then - you know and you are there - "who you are to become."

Steven, this is an amazingly perceptive piece. Thank you.

steven said...

hi margaret, thankyou very much!!! i know through my own life's living that life is entirely dynamic, predictable to a point but essentially it's like a river - it flows where it needs to go. have a peaceful evening. steven

steven said...

jennifer - thanks for your insights and for your kind comment. i think that process is moments strung together into a necklace. steven

Linda said...

Unless the person was safe and happy in his room until socialism came along, shattered the window of his experience and forced it's oppression onto his freedom. He could escape to the sea and leave his beloved life, but the broken glass is threatening. It's a reminder that there are now restrictions on his thinking and expression and his beautiful creative spirit is no longer easy to see.

Kay said...

This really made me look at the painting, I like you words but i see this differently....i'm standing outside under one of the trees...the sea murmurs at my back and i look into the countryside and see a house with a broken window...i have my freedom...the larks singing around me...sea scented breezes ruffle my hair and i'm glad i don't have to live in this house....
magritte calls it a door to freedom but..thats a window and that room is now not comfortable..is the room shattered or the view?..on the reverse of the glass would be an image of the room so really you have to decide whether you are inside the room or not..... if i was literally in the house i couldn't get out through the window without cutting myself....maybe i should turn my back on both images and walk out through the viewer...confused..yep me too!!

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

steven, when you mention the "shattering instant in which the distance between who a person is and who they are to become is laid bare" is one of those transcendental moments. I wonder how many of us realize those moments when we are in the moment or whether it is a thing we look back on and recognize at a later time.
I love Magritte's work, the surrealism of it. Not many would think to paint a reflection in a shard of glass.
Your thinking & interpretation is interesting to read.
Lizzy