Friday, September 19, 2008

The Symbol of "The Door"

As per a previous post where I said that I've started seeing movies that I might not otherwise see, either because they might not be available other places, or I just somehow overlooked them, I came across a Korean movie made in 2003 called "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring". It was an interesting and contemplative movie, very quietly paced and told as a Buddhist fable.
The story follows along the lives of a Buddhist monk and his young apprentice during the stages of their lives, the choices that they make, and how those choices ultimately affect them and being their lives full circle towards the end.
Since this film is told from a Buddhist perspective, there are some elements that I found rather interesting, and brought up some questions of my own as to whether or not they were cultural oddities or if they were in some way meant to portray deeper meaning. One aspect that I found fascinating was the notion of the use of doors where there were no walls. In the buddhist monastery, there are two doors that separate the main shrine area from the sleeping area for those who stay at the monastery. However, there are no physical walls that actually surround the doors; the frames are free standing. Yet the actual doors are used to enter and leave the areas. Likewise, at the edge of the lake, there is another gate and pair of doors... but no wall to surround them.
Part of me loooked at that and thought "how silly, just walk around them"... and yes, during the film, there are occassions where the characters do exactly that. Interestingly, the times that the characters actually do, it is to allow them to give in to a baser instinct. The section called Summer has a romance that builds between the young apprentice and a girl visiting the shrine. As his interest in her builds, we notice that he stops using the doors to come near her. There is very little dialog in the movie, so most actions are meant to be interpreted by exactly that, their actions. I found the idea of physically standing doors where there are no walls, and the idea that we make a conscious choice to use the doors, as a way to look into our own spirits. It left me with an interesting question. Is the free standing door meant to be a way of showing our humility, and our willingness to accept a higher purpose? What does it say to us (and about us) when a door is set, and there is no wall surrounding it... will we choose to use the door, or walk around the door? If we choose to use the door, what does that say about us? Likewise, if we walk around the door, what also does that say about us?
This reminds me of the phrase "integrity is what you do when no one else is looking", and the door that stands alone a reminder to preserve boundaries and a sacred space between ourselves and others, and to be wary of when we are willing to breach that sacred space. When we have doors set in walls, then the door is the only way that we can enter. When a door is placed in a space without a wall, then we must make a conscious choice to enter through the door. I liked this symbolism and its something I'd like to keep for myself as a reminder going forward.

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