In a movie I saw recently, a girl takes a piece of chalk, draws a door on the wall, pushes it open, and walks through. It’s a common motif in mythology and folktales; a door is drawn where no door exists, a maze opens up, a wardrobe becomes a portal to another world. Most often a common set of rules applies: There is a dead end. There is no other path. The stakes are high.

I love the image for the way it speaks to so many ideas I am in love with.

Postmodern thought says that reality is the collective story we tell each other every day. We know its rules and parameters; the doors are where everyone agrees they are. We know a door when we see someone open it and walk through it. The beautiful thing about this is that when the collective story doesn’t allow us to go where we need to go, we can create a new narrative instead. We are always free to draw a new door.

Buddhism says that the perception of opposites, good/evil, mind/body, is a limitation of the mind, not a limitation of reality. Zen koans are unanswerable questions that force the mind with all its dualisms to a dead end, where it can draw a door with chalk and enter a new kind of awareness.

Art therapy says that the creation of images is powerful and life-saving: When you hit a dead end, and there is no other path, and the stakes are high, draw on the wall.

Perhaps because she is young enough, or perhaps because she learns faster than most of us, the girl in the film doesn’t have to be told twice. The first door she drew closes. She is at a dead end, and her life is in danger. So she reaches up to the ceiling, draws another door, and climbs through. Today, if someone were to ask me about the single thing I wanted to do with my life, I would have to say, I want to be a person who draws doors with chalk.

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