See my comments on this question from James Ruse High here : Use the image below as the inspiration for an imaginative OR discursive piece which explores the result of a transformed outlook on individuals and/or society.
A few chapters after the world’s creation, a man is standing in his house at night having a quiet drink of water. His house and a few others form the village of Zoara, an oasis in the middle of the Jordan valley where balsam, indigo, and date trees bloom. Imagine the stars in the desert, the shadows of the date palms, the sound of camels drinking that miracle of water in an oasis.
Ahad is enjoying the peace, the water on his lips, the feeling of his sleeping family, when he hears a noise from outside. He opens the door slightly and sees, beyond the trees, an orange glow over the plain as of a dust storm or, worse, fire. A group of people is running away from the disaster towards Zoara, shouting. A man, two young women, and two much larger, winged, figures. Behind them on the plain is a pillar, a pale human-shaped thing amid the swirling dust and the reek of smoke and sulphur. It seems to face back to the place the others have fled.
They are shouting to Ahad to keep the door open. Standing in the quiet house built with his own hands and sweat, Ahad looks at this unlikely running club and thinks, ‘Not a chance.’ He shuts the door on the chaos.
My point is that Ahad’s shutting the door on a guy, two teenagers, and a pair of angels all legging it from burning Sodom is completely understandable and – in view of his responsibilities to his family and neighbours – commendable. Shutting the door on some things is OK.
My parents, like most loving parents who’re ambitious for their children, often talked about various parent-approved activities as a ‘doorway’ to something. Every course I took, prize I won, thing I wrote, was a doorway to my own publishing empire. I was exhorted not to close doors, burn bridges, paint myself into corners. Given the language, I should have been a civil engineer or a painter-and-decorator.
It took several pretty awful experiences which were supposed to be ‘doorways’ to something great to convince me that it’s just as important to know when to close a door as when to jam your foot in it to keep it open. Teaching in schools, for example, was supposed to be a doorway to fulfilment, sharing my love of a good story with kids. Instead, I found that I’d opened the door to many other people. I couldn’t sleep at night. I couldn’t think properly. I felt as if my mental space was being nibbled at by colleagues who used the Language of Crazy (the word ‘appropriate’ is a dead giveaway. People who use this are usually power-crazed loons who want to take over your mental space and turn it into Guantanamo Bay). It took several exhausting, enervating, breakdown-inducing experiences to realize that teaching was a door I should probably just close. And in the sane peace and quiet of a life where I don’t have to do departmental meetings and Professional Development, I’ve been much happier.
Canoeing, diving, marathon running, being an academic, and dating (not all at once or even in combination) were the same. All things meant to be doorways to happiness or more opportunities for personal growth. My body’s total unwillingness to co-operate closed those doors. I was tearfully grateful. I run once a week now (with a boyfriend I found on lonelysocialrejects.com), lift weights, and am happy to have accepted it. I haven’t completely closed the door and thrown away the key, but it takes a lot nowadays to get me to breach my little safe space and let something else in.
For a lot of human history we’ve thought of the mind (as distinct from the brain) as a little room. A medieval teacher called Geoffrey of Vinsauf called it the cellula deliciarum, the little cell of delights. I’ve found that my own mental studio apartment can hold me, boyfriend, cats, and a lot of reading. When I open the door and see the Burning Crazy, I close the door lest the flames invade my little cell.
Ahad, in Biblical terms, would have been a Canaanite if he was living in Zoara. The Canaanites occupied the area when Abraham (who was from Iraq), looked at it and decided it had been promised to him. The Hebrews moved in with their monotheistic God and their 613 laws and slaughtered the Canaanites until the territory was theirs. Every so often they would mess up and their God would bring the fire-and-brimstone. I think the Canaanites (who had many gods and a slightly more relaxed attitude to life), probably looked at the Hebrews the way suburban Australians would look at a cult of Raelians next door.
My point is that, when I see something bearing down on me in a cloud of fire yelling to keep the door open, I do an Ahad and shut that thing pronto.
If you’re interested, Lot and his daughters ended up living in a cave nearby. The two girls were annoyed that their father hadn’t saved their boyfriends from the flames, so they got their dad drunk and slept with him, in order to keep the whole Abrahamic People of Walmart story going for a few more chapters. I think Ahad had it right.