Doors of the mind: Ghosts and thresholds in Bowie, Dickens, and the Generation Game
I’ve never been able to pass a door in an ancient wall without wondering what’s behind it.
I know the truth is overwhelmingly likely to be mundane, but my subconscious mind can’t help picking out the details: the old ivy growth across it; the absence of any mechanism on the outside; the permanent silence on the other side of the wall.
Maybe I’m just nosey, but I’ve noticed that this door brings out different responses in people. Some want to know what’s behind it. Some fantasise what’s behind it. Others want to leave it well alone and walk on.
Doors have always been been as much about us as them; what we’ll see and what it’ll cost us. Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception. The ones at the end of the hall in Jim Morrison’s ‘The End’, and the ones in his band’s name. In the tales of M.R. James, where they keep the living from the dead, for a while. In Bowie’s inner-demons-themed ‘Scary Monsters’, “opening strange doors that we’d never close again”.
What’s behind the door? Every gameshow and religion in history promises us that we can find out, if we play it right… but only ever at the end. Jacob Marley’s ghost comes to Scrooge as a door knocker: the future laid bare, if you’re ready to look and close enough to the void to see in. The scores are always on the doors – in the Generation Game just like they are for Marley/Scrooge and doorcheck St Peter.
This particular door – the one I pass and wonder about – reminds me of the last moments of ’60s acid guru Timothy Leary. On his deathbed, he fell silent, then as he died, he simply said “Why not?”
Maybe that silence from the other side of the threshold made him curious too.
Hey, what do you think of the new Bowie single?
‘Blackstar’ has knocked me sideways, in fact. In a way that the admittedly fine singles from The Next Day didn’t manage. I love it when artists cram at least six songs’ worth of ideas into a single tune like this! And there are bits of this that remind me of the way he did that during the Outside era, which was an incredibly fertile time, creatively. (There’s even an outtake from that album’s sessions that breaks down in the middle from discord into a sort of torch song, like ‘Blackstar’ does, before resolving itself into orderly disorder again! Interested to hear what your take on it is too…
I get weird phrases popping in my head and would like to share. Saved from Dicken’s door, I think it refers to, the demise of ones life ending in poverty. My mother, when she was alive, would utter now and again. She had loved words all her life.
What do you think?