During my walk yesterday, just supervising Winter’s rapid retreat, I came across a green door in a wall. A modest house, a proportional wall, a pleasing door. The photos show the exterior and then the space the walls contain. I was pleased, struck, and memories arose, quite curious memories, memories of the time long ago when Brigitte returned to school and we became life-long students of biology. If this sounds like a non-sequitur, be patient. We used to sit around endlessly and talk about the cell, and I can still hear Brigitte saying: “In the beginning, there was the wall!”
Yes. The first assertion of life’s presence is the cellular wall. It carves the first ever private space out of the vast chaotic random. The wall of the cell, to be sure, is already a very complex something, but it is a final something, a triumph! Closure, you might say. At the same time it’s the beginning of something destined to become enormous and always magical. Life. Or at least its manifestation in the order of matter.
Long before the cell came into my conscious view, architectural enclosures had already fascinated me—the Roman atrium, the courtyard, the vast hollows of cathedrals. Humanity’s first habitation was in Paradise, and it had pleased me to discover that that word derives from the original Persian words for surrounded and wall, pairi and daeza: the walled garden.
The rest of my walk turned into a contemplation of this very basic subject, the inner and the outer—and I examined every enclosure for its meaning. Low, decorative walls easy to see over spoke of a desire to define but yet to invite eyes to admire. Bald wire fencing told me to say out—and that I would be closely observed as I passed. If they were further thickened by hedges, the wire meant to keep out animals; it was the job of the hedges to block intrusive human eyes. Wrought-iron proclaimed the presence of money, the stature of the owner, sometimes high taste. Tall solid walls always proclaimed that two realities exist—one within and one without, and the within is sacred.
Inside and out. Another pair in the endless duality. But these enclosures also emphasize that those two are never equal. It must have been a dark day indeed when Adam and Eve, heads bent, had to pass through that gate east of Eden.