Post 440 – by Gautam Shah
A gap or overlapping edges of barriers allow us to experience the other side. It is through such openings that one senses the change of state. An opening is always a smaller element than the mother barrier. In spite of its size subjugation it is far more powerful in effect. An opening presents three facets, one of this side, the other side, and the verge. This side is the familiar and protected one, and is the ’in-side’. The other side is unknown and a dangerous realm, and the ‘out-sides’. And the verge is a dilemmatic position, and it is prudent before crossing it. Verge delays the transit through the opening, as here one has to fearlessly step forward or cowardly draw backward.
The opening and the barrier, exist together, and both could be real or allegorical. But openings in real barriers have also been exclusively symbolic. Openings are synonymous with many objects and expressions, such as entrance, gate, gateway, passage, portal, access, bridgehead, adit, admission, admittance, ingress and way. Openings through the allegory of inside-outside portray, respectively, a built or enclosed space, and open terrain. Openings also represent a domain for compliance or submission, for being responsible and waiting for permission or opportunity to leave or enter.
Openings have been part of our folklore and legends, often with diverse meanings. Openings have been dealt in their interior as well as exterior expressions. The interior expressions of the opening relate to way of life, virtues, good manners, exemplary behaviour, restraints, and exterior manifests as supernatural, unpredictable, dilemmas. Out-sides are stepping out to freedom, or being kicked out of the safety. In-sides are invitation to warmth, or going to a confinement.
A’raf (Arabic =The Heights) is the Muslim realm, described as a high curtain or wall with an opening, between hell and paradise. It allows simultaneous experience of terror of hell and the beauty of paradise to inhabitant, whose sins and virtues are balanced.
Tolkien (of Lord of the Rings) inverts the usual association of ‘being inside’ with safety, and ‘being outside’ with danger. Inside is lurking with unknown dangers, and the outside is an escape to freedom. Forests are entrance points and open lands exit points. And yet he depicts entry to a forest, water body, caves, and barrows as entering into a dark unknown place and coming out into the open light of the fields, is to have survived the dark dangers of woods, water, and earth with newly gained knowledge and confidence. Tolkien uses the openings in various physical constructs, metaphysical effects and metaphorical forms. He uses the opening (directly or indirectly to a door, window, gate, or other passageway) as lead to a change in a character’s state. The sketches of ‘before and afterwards’ of tunnels, caves, and mines, represent what was before against what new things wait on the other side. It is the realm of conflict.
In literature barriers are thresholds that represent the dichotomies of safety, danger, control, chaos, inclusion and exclusion. A barrier without any opening is epitomized in the classical Indian Epic Ramayana, Sita, the wife of Lord Rama, is barred by a drawn line (by her brother-in-law) a Laxman-Rekha, restricting her movement beyond it. A territorial mark on the ground that defines whether one is included or excluded from the macrocosm. Here the threshold exists in spite there being no physical barrier. In other words, we must cross the thresholds that paradoxically lead us both, outward and inward, and to a deeper understanding of our strengths, weaknesses and recognition of our relationships with the cosmos.
In movies a passage or opening is a portent of change, new happening or a move forward. An opening framed as the backdrop of a character translates as the impediment, but the same in-front of the character shows a victory at hand.
An opening in a barrier is a facility to transit. Where the transit takes time, it becomes a passage. The passage as a stretched verge (threshold) affects the transition taking place. Openings are marked by their sides or the frame. The floor (plain, ramped, stepped or a mountable hindrance) is a primary transit facility. The possibility of exchange is reinforced by the sides of the barrier. The framing with the floor and sides causes a recognizable opening such as a valley, cliff, gorge, or walkway. The opening is caused primarily by the formatted sides and then by the transit-able floor. The Egyptian temple entrances consist of tall sides formed by a pair of columns, pylons or obelisks. The lintel or head is architecturally less significant, just incidental.
Henrik B. Lindskoug while studying the prehistoric site Pichao, NW Argentina, raises questions like: Where do entrances lead? Where are they located? What do they connect? Are paths leading between different entrances? Is there some way of controlling the paths? Who had access to the entrances and the paths? Where are they placed? What is the size of the entrances? Is there a reason behind the size of the entrances? How were they used?
At mundane level, an opening is entry-exit of a built-form. It serves many functions such as control over illumination, intrusion, acoustical disturbance, visual engagement, social interference and movement of air and pollution and thermal emission. At symbolic level it offers hope, new life or fresh beginning, isolation from the familiar, ventures into unknown, initiation into mysteries, fear and expanded communications. At spiritual level it provides an encounter with the supernatural, a communion and unification with the creator (Christ -I am the door).