I’m writing this from the 17th floor of a beach-side balcony with one eye on the sun rising over the Atlantic Ocean and one eye on my screen. The sun rises in the east just like at home where Karen and I admire it’s ascent from our garden patio each morning in Oklahoma. Here it rises above sand and sea. At home it rises over treetops and cattails and our pond.
Vacations often leave me restless and searching for something new or they make me sleepy like I sometimes feel on Sunday mornings hoping to hear a new message but often growing restless and nodding off. I come by this honestly.
It was during a tent revival on the west side of Bartlesville that I realized that my father was a narcoleptic and that my foundation was set in stone, a fallen acorn sprouting near the oak tree. Brother A.C. Chrisman was rising into an eloquent and soulful crescendo when he paused and looked out into his audience at an indifferent, nay a sleeping congregant. Troubled by this disrespect enough to call Terrel Taylor out, in good humor he asked him, “Brother Taylor, are you resting your eyes?” Undaunted, my dad replied without hesitation, “ No, I’m sleeping.”
This explains why I’m often nodding off during the Sunday sermon, although I’m getting better. Now I’m able to rest and listen simultaneously, one ear open and the other not, one eye bright and the other tight.
I find myself mired in this clay, not made to sit still and listen, but to try new things, as was the case this past Sunday. The worship leader at Seacoast Vineyard Church in Myrtle Beach encouraged the congregation to raise their hands high. While holding a coffee cup in one hand, I raised my free hand waist high as a sort of compromise to my foundations of rational western thought. I am often envious of those who seem to have found a door to enlightenment, a shortcut not yet found.
While walking about Old Charleston Town, I saw many doors to unknown places, their knobs often two feet up from street level, meaning either that the streets were once lower or people from the 17th century were four feet tall. When I travel, I’m always wondering about things I can’t explain. Maybe it is a revelation, behind a door still not discovered, through which I will find a secret revealed. So many people today, it seems to me, want revelation, to discover truth behind a door that is as yet, unopened.
Stephanie Powell Watts writes in The Oxford American, “We are always looking for revelation—even in our most known places and our most loved people. We hope to find the undiscovered in ourselves—the window into everything. I feel the open window in beautiful spaces. I start to think about myself differently and imagine that I can become new. I travel to remember this. I travel to forget that my foundation is set and unmovable.”Watts goes on the quote Thomas Wolfe who wrote in Look Homeward, Angel that ‘we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door.’
I love the idea of traveling to seek something new in unfound beautiful spaces. I travel to discover new worlds and cultures, diverse people, unique residences, stunning topography, and uncommon food—and because I made a deal with my wife to shake off the shoe dust of my hometown occasionally.
I am who I am, at least in part, because of the known places in my life that are shaded by the canopy of community provided by those I know well and love best. But, like most folks, I’m searching for something as yet unknown, revelation, truth, beauty, a good cheeseburger, behind an unfound door.
Einstein never gave up searching for the unfound door into the beautiful space that would unify gravity and electromagnetism into a single elegant theory. He searched for the theory of everything for thirty years and never found the solution.
Ben Hogan once dreamed he made 17 holes-in-one, and on the 18th hole he lipped the cup and was incredibly angry. He never gave up the search for another dimension of excellence behind an unfound door.
I’m looking at the South Carolina shore for unexpected beauty, and at the low country knobs of undiscovered doors, behind which I imagine once revealed the truth to someone who lived and breathed like me, one eye open to beautiful spaces and one eye shut to the dim shroud of rationality that gave comfort to the practice of enslaving other human beings within those same beautiful spaces.
Behind one particular door was a museum on the site where slaves were once bought and sold, after being fattened like cattle at a feed lot. Standing in that old building that once housed a market for buying and selling human beings as nothing more than property, often splitting families apart forever, made me want to weep.
Sometimes opening unfound doors reveals truth as beauty and horror, a revealing of myself, one eye open, one eye shut.
Lord help me walk through unfound doors with both eyes wide open.