Nineteenth Century British poet, William Blake, in his piece, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, wrote: “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” Similar words were spoken by Saint John Vianney, a French priest who lived around the same time: “The eyes of the world see no further than this life, as mine see no further than this wall when the door is closed. The eyes of the Christian see into eternity.” Though they write from different perspectives, one humanistic and the other religious, they both challenge us to gaze with deeper insight into possibilities not obvious to us.
We enter through the doors of 2018 much like we enter into every other new year. Whether or not we make resolutions to strategize how to better ourselves, we desire to do so. Self-betterment is a key ingredient to base-level happiness; but for higher levels, we must look beyond the self. As we seek to drop a few pounds, master a work-out regiment, adopt healthier habits or more meaningful relationships, we might want to consider a vision beyond self-betterment, as well—a vision that peers into the infinite perception of eternity.
Though it might sound strange to plan for heaven while it’s enough of a challenge to plan for the year ahead, that’s what we should be doing. Vianney’s claim that Believers keep their eyes on eternity might be wishful thinking—but he is correct in suggesting that that’s where our sights need to be set. If we truly believe in Christ’s promise of eternal life, we will more naturally pursue happiness through and with Him. If we’re going to succeed, two habits need to be central: treating others better and daily prayer.
If Christ resides in every person, as our faith teaches, we will discover our own happiness via our interactions with others: sharing our wealth, our wisdom, our experiences of growth, and other treasures that we value. A good goal for 2018, then, would be to cleanse the doors of perception of our mind’s eye by seeing that our treatment of others is intimately tied to our relationship with God. To do this, we need to check in daily with The Lord, i.e., open the door where He knocks and waits for us, go in, sit down, and talk matters over with Him.
Unfortunately, it’s hard work. I wish there was a magic pill that allowed us to cleanse the doors of perception. Aldous Huxley, author of the essay “The Doors of Perception,” thought there was, as did Jim Morrison, founder of the rock band, The Doors. They had deeply spiritual encounters through mescaline, peyote, and other psychedelic substances, convinced that their ecstatic experiences and aesthetic visions were sacramental. Though fans of Blake, they discovered that the doors of perception that they entered were revolving doors to nowhere.
This year, like every year, we might be standing at the threshold of wondrous possibilities. Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount tells us to knock and the door will be opened up for us. As we step into 2018, let us consider stepping through the door of Christ that beckons us to encounter His happiness and catch a glimpse of eternity in our temporal world.