Doors, Knocks, Locks and Keys, Figuratively

by Belinda Munoz on January 18, 2010

door

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Years ago, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Jackson Browne at a dear friend’s wedding dinner.  Jackson is a well-known singer-songwriter of hits such as “The Pretender”, “Running on Empty”, “Doctor My Eyes”.  I didn’t grow up listening to his songs, but I knew a little bit about him and admired his activism.

Jackson and my husband talked music, as musicians always do (he later sang on one of my husband’s albums).  He and I talked a little bit about life and politics.  He’s reputed as being actively engaged and outspoken.  We touched on how we’re all poised to make a difference in many ways, whether we realize it or not.  And then we discussed helping others as either an opportunity or a responsibility.  I, equipped with my trusty ol’ baggage of guilt accumulated through education, philosophy and upbringing, said it was a responsibility.  He, the man who wrote the lines — Are you there? / Say a prayer for the pretender / Who started out so young and strong / Only to surrender — said it’s an opportunity.

DOORS

Doors are constantly opening and closing.  With all the commotion that being alive brings, these doors often go unnoticed.  Open.  Shut.  Open.  Shut.  As they swing about, simultaneously, we walk about in familiar rooms, in corridors, on sidewalks, peering through windows, stepping on rocks, slipping on banana peels, stubbing our toes, bumping into poles, and whatever else.

A KNOCK (OPPORTUNITY)

Sometimes, there’s a knock on the door.  Audible, insistent, persistent.  We open it, but we’re not sure what will walk in.  At times, it’s an unwanted guest that assaults our being.  Pain, failure, rejection, suffering, embarrassment, and so on.  Other times we get lucky.  In walks handsome opportunity, arriving at just the right time, bringing the right energy.  We welcome it, all spiffed up with a martini glass in hand, ready to drink in the happiness, success and love it brings.

A LOCK AND A KEY (RESPONSIBILITY)

And then there are times when we’re indoors for far too long.  We can’t leave and lock the door behind us because the key is nowhere to be found.  Where’s the key?  Could it be in the laundry basket?  In your child’s lunchbox?  In your trunk of forgotten dreams?  Who knows.  So we stay put, locked from inside, alone in the same four walls, skin and marrow all sallow from deprivation of light, longing for a visit or even a solitary outing.  This is how responsibility can make us feel sometimes.

A BRAINSTORM

Responsibility, if taken too seriously, can weigh so heavily it squelches every ounce of joy.  Opportunity is a gamble and often without guarantee.  So why do we bother with knocks, locks and keys if they bring a mixed bag of perilous opportunities and responsibilities that eat away at our spirit from the inside out?

Why not make the lock and knock obsolete?  Why not blast the door off permanently?

What, you think that’s too wild and has no practical application?  Would it complicate regulating the comings and goings of invited guests and unwelcome intruders, danger and safety, pleasure and pressure?

AN UPLIFT

Then how about siding with neither Jackson nor myself and making a bit of a semantic tweak?  One that’s big enough to expand the mind and the heart; afford a little extension to the much-desired psychological wiggle room.  Why not use the verb hope instead of opportunity or responsibility?  It goes something like this:

I have an opportunity responsibility hope to raise a happy child in this crazy world.
I have an opportunity responsibility hope to bring peace to those who need it.
I have an opportunity responsibility hope to learn from my mistakes.
I have an opportunity responsibility hope to help those who need help.
I have an opportunity responsibility hope to receive help when I need it.
I have an opportunity responsibility hope to pursue my dreams.
I have an opportunity responsibility hope to follow in Gandhi’s non-violence footsteps.
I have an opportunity responsibility hope to think with my head, feel with my heart and grow with each passing day.

Then maybe we won’t get clobbered by our baggage and our fears.  And maybe we won’t surrender or become a pretender.  For when opportunity slips away, or when responsibility slams its crippling weight, there remains hope.  Hope.  Never crushing, always comforting.  Hope.  Always there, up for grabs.

Do you believe in the power of hope?  Do you agree that sometimes, a little adjustment in our perspective can make all the difference?

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This post is dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, a remarkable leader who seized an opportunity, marched on as though it were his responsibility, and in turn, opened the door for the hope of bigger and brighter possibilities for all.
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Image by MarcelGermain

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January 18, 2010 at 6:22 am

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bob Bessette January 18, 2010 at 5:59 am

Hi Belinda,
I do believe in the power of hope. I DID grow up listening to Jackson Brown and thought he was great. It’s impressive that you had a chance of speaking with him. I do agree that a change in our perspective can make a huge difference. I have this quote on my computer at work: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” This is so true…
Best,
Bob

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2 Jeanne January 18, 2010 at 7:45 am

Hi, Belinda — nice thought-provoker! I think that our choice of words makes all the difference, and I agree that ‘responsibility’ has an odorous tone about it — a weightiness that doesn’t invite embracing it.

‘Opportunity’ speaks adventure to me, and I’m much more likely to embrace it, perhaps with a little trepidation, but I respond to its positive tone.

‘Hope’ has an air of wistfulness that can lift us into a realm of working toward what we hope for, sometimes without even realizing it. I think it also brings an undercurrent of ‘I’m not going to achieve this all by myself; but in concert with unknown others.’

That’s where I like to be. And I so agree with Bob and his favorite quote — it’s one of my bedrock quotes as well!

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3 Patty - Why Not Start Now? January 18, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Zowie, I do so love your writing Belinda! Just reading here is like a trip into a mysterious cavern, where the farther in you go the more amazing things you see and feel. Yeah, that’s it, your writing gives me such a felt experience. And there’s always a message to boot! I love the word “hope.” I know some say it’s too vague and unspecific, we give ourselves too much wiggle room with it (I hope to pursue my dreams rather than I will pursue my dreams), but I disagree. Hope is about trust, faith, optimism, belief. We often have to touch the more innocent parts of ourselves to claim it. Sorely needed right now. And responsibility? I’ve got a whole thing on that one. I think we’ve lost touch with its true meaning, that responsibility first starts with ourselves and then flows outward. One of my favorite quotes from Nietzsche: “Freedom is the will to be responsible to ourselves.”
p.s. Reading you makes me a better writer. Thanks for that!

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4 Tess The Bold Life January 18, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Hi,
I think I have more hope for our world since getting to know so many wonderful bloggers. So I’m all for hope. Without it I think I’d give up. I also agree with Patti on your writing, it’s great. And about responsibility, I agree we have a responsibility to ourselves and we can accept responsibility for taking care of ourselves we don’t feel a responsibility or opportunity we feel love and our actions come from that place.

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5 Nicki January 19, 2010 at 4:39 am

Belinda – I have read and re-read this entry. I love the word HOPE. I want to use it more than using other words. It is like my dislike of the word resolution but like of the word aspiration. I also, in a word groove today, told another mom that we should replace the word balance with the word perspective.

I am hoping that there is a lot of knocking in all our lives this year.

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6 Sara January 19, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Belinda — This is one fabulous post. It’s like word music — everything in it flows so beautifully to your final crescendo about hope. I love it and I think if Martin Luther King read this post, he would be so pleased and proud to realize that his change is no longer just at the skin level; it’s now moved into the heart. Wow and thanks:~)

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7 BK January 19, 2010 at 6:46 pm

A refreshing perspective in helping people. I have never thought of it as an opportunity. To me, it is more of a desire to want to help others for a simple fact that helping others make me happy. But through helping others, I see an opportunity for us to grow and to develop ourselves.

And I do agree with you that a little change in our perspective sometimes can make a difference. Just like an umbrella, the mind works best only when it is open.

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8 Malo January 19, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Responsibility is a harsh word, and takes out all the joy in doing something. Hope, on the other hand is a soothing word. It relieves us of pressure, and probably more effective in producing results.

Thanks for the wonderful insight Belinda!

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9 Belinda Munoz January 19, 2010 at 10:50 pm

@Bob, thanks. That’s a great quote. And I think it’s possible that when we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change which in turn changes us for the better. Or at the very least, it helps us get “un-stuck”.

@Jeanne, absolutely! I love that you add the element of interdependence to hope. I achieve things not by myself but in concert with unknown others. Yes. Our interdependence is something I’ve been thinking about as I think it’s somewhat overlooked and I hope to write about it. Thanks.

@Patty, wow, what a great compliment! Thanks. I hope you know how much I love reading your blog, too, for the writing as much as for the content. I love how you put it: We often have to touch the more innocent parts of ourselves to claim hope. I agree with Nietzsche, responsibility starts with ourselves and I’d like to add that it doesn’t end there.

@Tess, great to have you and your Bold Life grace my blog! I’m getting to know some wonderful bloggers myself and they do give me hope.

@Nicki, thanks. I really like the idea of knocking balance for perspective. One is much more easily attainable than the other.

@Sara, you put that so beautifully. MLK’s legacy has broken through skin and penetrated the heart. Thank you.

@Malo, yeah, I still cringe at the thought that I’m responsible for the things that I’m responsible for. And it’s not because I’m irresponsible, because I’m not. I like the word hope because, c’mon, we all know we can’t just hope with no action. It’s just a way gentler word than responsibility. Thanks.

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10 Amit Sodha - The Power Of Choice January 20, 2010 at 5:10 am

Hey Belinda,

The word hope is a powerful one and I love the idea of blasting those doors off. Hope is a tool that inspires people into action.

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11 Phil - Less Ordinary Living January 20, 2010 at 10:56 am

Belinda –

A beautifully penned posting – lyrical poetry with superb imagery. Probably the blog I’ve enjoyed most this year. I think that hope is a beautiful thing and I associate it with something very powerful for me – faith. I think that when intention meets faith, marinated in hope, you have the right recipe for success without regret. Thanks again.

Phil

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12 ayo January 20, 2010 at 5:51 pm

loved your analogies here belinda.
i don’t know if anyone has said this to you, but your posts actually come alive in an audible manner.
anyway, i believe in the power of hope . I may be wrong but i think you can experience positive outcomes in the different events of life once hope is present.
i also think hope centers on being optimistic, trusting and believing things will take a turn around for the better.

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13 pharmacy technician February 8, 2010 at 11:44 pm

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

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14 Christy February 17, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Belinda thanks for pointing me to this post, your writing has such healing power! Looking forward to reading through your archives.

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