How do you open a door?
Real question. Think about it for a second. Or don’t, maybe you don’t think about how to open doors. Probably why it’s a confusing question. I’m rambling, but how do you open a door?
This question occurred to me while listening to the wonderful Dr. Peter Kreeft, a Catholic philosopher who is basically who I aspire to be when I, too, become ancient (and I mean that in the most endearing way).
Dr. Kreeft was talking about a conversation he had with someone where they told him “I want to believe in God, but I don’t know how”. This confused Peter, so his response was to ask “Well, if your wife knocked on the door just now, what would you do?”. The person responded that they’d open the door for her, and Peter’s next question was “right, but how do you do that?”
This led down to a path of deconstruction and explicitly thinking about how to actually open a door. Yes, we’re going down this route. Bear with me, there is sense in this.
When you get up to open a door, you’re first pointing within that particular direction (in my case, 90 degrees to the left of me). You will yourself to move in that direction with the titanic strength of your spinning desk chair, then summon the strength to activate your toes, feet, calf muscles, amazing ass and thighs to lift your upper body with it so you may stand.
Once standing, you begin the process of walking. Your entire body activates like in Pacific Rim where the Jaegers begin to move, but you’re so strong that you only need one consciousness to control your jaeger body. One foot moves forward, opposite arm swings forward, other back, etc. You begin the process of forward movement – congratulations, you’ve committed to movement towards a door.
The next step is crucial – you need to move the opposing leg forward and maintain your posture so that you don’t fall forward and smash into the floor, potentially concussing your pristine brain. This continues, and during this time you’re automatically calculating the distance between you and the door. For me, it’s about four meters, I think.
As you proceed to walk, you may swerve to the left, right or even spin because it’s a good trick and your name is Anakin. You need to dodge obstacles, like small children – who I presume are yours – pets, adult toys, chairs and tables.
At last, you close in on your target – a stationary door. You now active your dominant arm and reach for the handle. As you grab the handle and utilize your joints to grip it firmly, you either rotate it or push it down in order to open the door.
Oh, damnit. It’s locked. One sec, moving hand up to unlock it first.
Okay, now that’s done, you go back to firmly grasping the luscious handle and or knob and slowly move it.
Finally, the door begins the move, and you either push it forward or back, depending on the kind of door you have. As it opens, you realize no one is outside, you don’t have a wife, and you’re questioning why you’re doing this in the first place. You proceed to close the door and reset into “neutral stationary human” position.
Congratulations, you opened a door, and everything explained in painstaking detail was completely arbitrary, because going back to the original question of “How do you open a door?”, you simply say.
“I walk up to the door and open it. What’s wrong with you?”
Huh, okay, so we don’t need the how. You just do it.
Now here’s the kicker: if we just do these simple tasks, why do we consistently look for how-to instructionals on doing so many things that we have interest in?
“How do you exercise?” “How do you do stretch?” “How do you play x instrument?” “How do you save money?”
Why do we need to know these things in such detail? Why not just start doing things and see what happens?
This question of “How to open a door” led me down a path of thinking about how modern life tends to place people in a position of perpetual paralysis. They can’t do anything, and that includes me!
I mean, we can do basic things that we’ve habitualized over the course of our lives, but we’re consistently looking for a perfect “starter kit” when we want to do things. Think about when we were all kids – instead of us wondering “how” to start playing an instrument or climbing a tree, we just “did” those things and learned from the rising and falling of said activities.
We struggled, cried about it, then tried again until we struggled no more. Victorious, the tree is now my house and my mother can’t get to me, because she’s in “how to” paralysis regarding the climbing of the tree.
Part of this methodological approach that we develop is because we are creatures of habit and we want to survive. There’s a reason we study how to do heart surgery, because mistakes there cost lives. We require the how-to method because it grants us the ability to do tasks that require incredible precision and no room for error. So when I talk about this, I’m not talking about freestyling on someone’s aortic valve. That’s probably a crime.
But we often take this how to thing too far with tasks that don’t require specialization to that degree. How do you play an instrument? How do you color with pastels? How do you start to exercise? How do you start a YouTube channel?
I mean, barring a quick google on how to make an account on YouTube, do you really need someone telling you how to get started on any of these things? This question is in reference to myself, too – and all examples above are things I have been paralyzed on before.
But I’m not paralyzed anymore, because instead of wondering how to play an instrument, or use pastels, or exercise, I just started and went from there. Bought a flute and started making weird noises, then just copied tunes on YouTube. Now I’m writing my own stuff – beginner mind you, but making amazing progress. I know how to use pastels too – not perfect, but I just started and used my fingers a lot. I fingered my paper, it was very pleasurable but a bit dry.
As for exercise, I remember I just started going to the gym, walking and not eating sugar. I didn’t really look into a program – I made changes that were pretty simple and then built up into interests from there. Nowadays, no problem. I do push ups, some handstands and other stuff in my house.
The point I’m making here is – and coming full circle back to the door opening and God believing question – constantly asking how to do something is often the reason you become paralyzed in the first place. You’re looking for a perfect start when most starting points are a stumbling mess. Think about when you were a kid and how ‘stupid’ you were – that ‘stupidity’ was the grace of God giving you the ability to climb the tree instead of considering which branch could bear your weight and whether the bug up there is a wasp and what if it stings me?
Maybe you’re dumber now because you don’t trust your intuition anymore or your ability to bounce from failure.
Don’t be stupid by thinking about the how’s behind things you want to start – so going back to the original question: How do you open a door?
You get up and open it, idiot. Just like how you believe in God if you want to, or begin playing music because you want to. It’s probably awkward at first, but you’ve been awkward all your childhood – why’s that a problem now?
Just don’t do heart surgery without practice, that kind of stuff needs a how to.