Does the name Rabindrinath Tagore mean anything to you? He was an Anglo Indian poet in the early years of the last century. He was already well established when I was a small boy and I became aware of him only by the fact that I had a wonderful storyteller in my life at exactly the right age; ten years old or so. I realize now that he was not yet really a young man but in his own late teens, nevertheless this was the person who was in charge of a Sunday evening class where many of the stories he told us were Bible stories but others were from farther afield. His name was Henry Turner. And the organization was The Boys Brigade.
This serendipity always beings to my mind a very beautiful story Henry told the circle of small boys seated around him on the floor. Saying this reminds me of another instance of being told something wonderful sitting cross legged on the schoolroom floor, but that’s another story for another time.
Back to Rabindrinath Tagore. I asked if you recall him. There is a wonderfully gentle and lyrical mysticism in his work. Here is the story that Henry lodged in my mind for a lifetime.
There was a man, said Henry, who lived long ago on the side of a great forested valley. He lived in a small hut he had built himself in a clearing. One morning he looked across the vast valley that stretched away from him, and there high on the ridge was a great shimmering golden door.
The man realized that he had from time to time seen the golden door but for some reason it had not occurred to him to see what this mysterious door was. One morning he made his decision. Taking some food for the day he closed the door of his own little hut and set out on his journey down the side of the valley. Since it was a great valley he had never before gone so far and so deeply. Towards noon he reached the bottom where he came to a riverbank. There he was alarmed at first because the river he came to seemed too wide to cross. However he found a log that he was able to push into the river and he managed to make the crossing. Off he set again, up the far slope of the valley.
At evening near sunset he came to the ridge. There in a clearing like his own, was a small hut also like his own. Nothing special. Far from there being any golden door, a dingy door made of wooden beams and a sheet of glass hung on half broken hinges. He was desperately disappointed. Then, as he stood there looking at the door hanging on its hinges, something made him turn around.
Immediately he was forced to shade his eyes. From far across the valley a blazing light forced him to protect them. Looking carefully and quickly through his fingers he could see the distant clearing in the forest where he himself lived. There, in the middle of the clearing where his humble hut stood, he saw a shimmering Golden Door, its crude pieces of wood and glass reflecting the glory of the setting sun.
I think, dear reader, that we both know what Tagore was telling us about life.
A photographic portrait of Rabindranath Tagore, date unknown