Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.
If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.
Things look at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.
If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily
to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely
but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?
The door itself
makes no promises.
It is only a door.
-- Adrienne Rich
I first discovered this poem in Mishkan Tfilah, the
new Reform siddur. The poem appears there without its title, as do all of the
poetry selections in the book (a decision intended, I assume, to make the poems feel like prayers, rather than the expression of any individual poet's heart). Simcha Daniel taught me that
the poem is called "Prospective Immigrants Please Note." I don't know what it's like to emigrate, but I know what it's like to make the conscious decision to dive in to something unknown
I see a chiastic structure here. For me, the middle stanza is the pivot on which the poem hinges. "If you do not go through / it is possible / to live worthily," Rich writes. Whatever leap you're considering taking: there's nothing wrong with not taking it. But if you don't take the leap, you won't know what new vision might await you on the other side.
The scary thing about beginning
my year as a hospital chaplain was not knowing whether I could
live up to what the job would demand of me, or what unexpected experiences were in store. The blessings of
that experience easily exceeded its challenges, but there was
no way to know that until I walked through the door.
Yesterday Ethan and I enjoyed the longest day of the year together. Today he'll drive me to an airport hotel near JFK. Tomorrow morning he'll take me to the airport at five a.m. and I'll begin my Jerusalem journey. I don't know what's on the other side of this door, but I trust that the blessings will outshine the challenges here too.
Mobius posted an amazing quote from Reb Nachman on Friday: "All beginnings require that you unlock a new door." (This post was already in draft then, so the serendipity made me smile.) Here goes nothing: my hand is on the handle, the hinge creaks, the door is about to open --
Just to make my departure more interesting, my computer died a grisly death this morning. (Good thing I'd saved a draft of this post at TypePad.) I'll be heading to Israel with a loaner machine. Thank you in advance for understanding if I'm even slower than anticipated to respond to emails and comments...