My mind is prone to tangents. Recently, I’ve been listening to the music of the 1960’s rock group The Doors and pondering the words of William Blake that inspired the name of the band, “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to us as it is, Infinite.” (Well actually he said “man” but I decided to expand it to “us.”)
Perception is a powerful thing. Related to my most recent mental tangent I read the biography of Jim Morrison No One Gets Out of Here Alive. (Apropos of nothing I got a real bargain on it, seventy five cents at a used book store.) Reading this book I couldn’t help but feel that the lead singer of The Doors was a real a$$hole. (I was going to use another word but my computer thesaurus didn’t have one -no results found.) Then I read another book Light My Fire by the band’s keyboardist Ray Manzarek and I came away with the impression that Morrison was sensitive, poetic, polite, witty, wise, prophetic, spiritual, a great friend and also capable of being a real a$$hole.
From these two books I conclude we are saved by friendship. Our friends see the good in us even if others can only see the bad. Our friends appreciate us even when others are repelled. The world may look at us through a glass darkly but our friends see us when the doors of perception are cleansed.
One of the main reasons to join a church is to make friends. We need communities where others see us and value us. For this reason, we all have to do the work of keeping the doors of perception cleansed so that we can see each other and appreciate each other for what we really are, Infinite.
Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception was about mescaline but one does not need drugs to awaken to realization (and the high levels of addiction in our culture suggest need more sustainable and less consumerist paths to experiences of the transcendent – meditation, music, art, creativity, prayer, mindfulness etc.) The Quakers are known for their sobriety, even so, they tell us to look for “that of God in every person.” Many of 19th century Unitarians were teetotalers but they advised us to seek “the divine spark in every person.” The poet William Blake would tell us that we can hold infinity in the palm of our hand and “eternity in an hour.”
My mental tangent about The Doors began in December when I decided a good title for the homily for the Christmas Eve candlelight service would be, “Come On Baby, Light My Fire” as a way of bringing together the nativity story with the fire related traditions of Hanukkah, Advent, Kwanzaa and winter solstice. If you missed this homily you can check it out on YouTube and sing along with everybody else (see below link.) To paraphrase the words of the religious educator Sophia Fahs, “When the doors of perception are cleansed every night is a holy night and every child a holy child.” That’s a good thought for Christmas eve or any night or day of the year.
My mind is prone to tangents. I like to explore new areas of thought. “There are the things you know about and the things you don’t,” said Jim Morrison, “the known and the unknown, and in between there are the doors.” I suppose every poet/songwriter has an element of pretentiousness. Even so, this should not deter us from walking through the doors of our church, greeting a new person, turning a stranger into a friend and by so doing discover the Infinite.