A Visit to the Neighbors

As we humans began migrating to the cities over the past few hundred years, the front gate has nearly vanished in some places, at best to be replaced with security gates. Apartment and condominium developments require us to get “buzzed in.” In high-rise condos, there are often security guards. Our privacy has seemingly trumped neighborliness. We seem to approach every encounter with distrust as the default, rather than openness and trust. This is, in my view, the great failure of modernism, despite all the reasons that are put forth to defend these changes – more nut-jobs, more criminals, etc. But this seems like a chicken/egg argument to me – when we respond to a negative force with opposing negative force, we paint ourselves into a corner. Criminals just up the ante, and then we respond in kind. Pretty soon, it seems madness to not do so.

I work in a field where I have to knock on doors a lot. Often, this occurs in some rather dicey neighborhoods, but just as often, in more up-scale burbs, and I have come to find this type of distrust and fear rampant in both places. It is just a little better disguised in the up-scale communities, hidden behind better security, and never mentioned out loud. But once in a while, I get to visit small towns, where crime is far less an issue, and where neighborliness remains an art practiced by most local citizens. Even where there is no front gate, there is less suspicion when someone opens the door to ask what they can do for me, rather than asking what I want. A distinct lesson in the message conveyed by word choice!

Howdy, Neighbor!!

I am always curious – what do people want visitors to their homes to experience, from that first moment – approaching the home? Do they want people to feel welcome, or not so much? Are they hoping to impress with their wealth, or with their esthetic? Are they saying please get to your business and be on your way, or, hey, care for some lemonade? How we present our facade is exactly the same as how we choose to dress – it conveys something about who we are, how we act, what we respect. A front gate may not be how you wish to spend time expressing these things, but the gate contributes to those elements of communication despite our own intent. Here is a chance to think about that.

But do consider sitting on the front porch and having a cold drink while doing so!!

The Intrinsic Gate

Gates, as I have mentioned prior, are both a physical thing, and a metaphoric process, if you will. Each person can be, (though not all will be) a gate for others, a doorway to newer understanding, deeper resonances with the Universe. We open gates within ourselves, and serve to open gates for others, often never knowing we have done so. Some of these gates we open lead to good outcomes; others fall considerably short.


I think of spiritual guides as a kind of gateway, but I find that those without such intent, who nonetheless still open those gates for others, to be far more compelling. Perhaps it is the unplanned, unintentional aspect of these gates that intrigue me the most, I haven’t fully sorted it out yet. But many of us have met people who open their gates for us, just because that is who these people are. Welcome, they say, without words. Just with the sureness of their hearts.

Who knows what lies beyond?

Where You’d Least Expect It…

The world is a complicated mess, which is where most of its charm comes from, if you think about it. Sure, there is all the out-front stuff – politics being the dominant mess of the day – but there are also myriad hidden gems, people and places that can only be stumbled upon, and in that moment of taking the stumble, we get to for a brief moment remember that life is much more than the usual, the planned, the to-be-expected. My dearest and I had one such of those unexpected encounters yesterday, when we ran into an amazing man, with an even more amazing hobby/business/avocation.

Myanmar, or as some still call it, Burma, has been in the news often because of it’s political repression by a military dictatorship, and more recently, for what on the surface at least appears to be a slowly changing situation for the better. What most in the West do NOT know about Myanmar is that the people keep trying to live decent, spirit-filled lives, often led by the Buddhist monks who have been a dominant social force in the country for centuries. Their monasteries abound throughout the country, and these monasteries are storehouses of both spiritual knowledge, and the essentials of the ancient and honorable Burmese culture as a whole, including the arts. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the architecture of the monasteries themselves.

The Hidden Monastery of the Singular Monk

This is the work of one David Van Leeuwen, and much more of his work can be seen at http://www.davidjaap.com, and I strongly urge you to visit his site. The gateway below is called the Lotus Flower Gateway, and is a copy of a 200-year-old monastery in Mandalay. He makes his gateways and other Burmese sculptures by taking rubber molds from actual wood carvings, and then pours them with reinforced concrete mortar, some with pigmentation added, and some with paint. He sells his sculptures and gateways as a way to raise funds to help build schools, water wells, and other community improvement projects in the small villages of Burma/Myanmar.

This copy of a gateway from a 200-year-old monastery sits among giant eucalyptus trees a world away from Myanmar.

Below is David, Standing inside one of his Dragon Gateways:

Does the dragon matter entering, or exiting through the gateway? And how will you change?

David is truly the embodiment of a world-changing artist, and I hope you take the time to get to know about him, and the amazing work he is doing to change it, one village at a time!! Come on, step through the Dragon’s Gate!! Just click on it, and you will be instantly transported. How cool is that!!??

The Gate is Open

This project depends on you - and your photos of gates. Great gates, different gates, unusual gates, non-obvious gates. Be sure to include your contact information, permission to use your photo, and a name for proper credit where credit is due! Be a part of the Gate Project.