Professor Futuro stood with both hands firmly gripping the lectern. He observed his audience silently.
“Friends” he began. The slight German accent and unruly white hair, lent gravitas to his professorial presence. “Our late colleague, Dr. La Porte, wrote on a piece of paper, just before his recent, untimely death, these words:
‘What is behind the door?’
“In tribute to him, I have given considerable thought to this question and would like to share some of those thoughts with you now, on this day of remembrance.”
He cleared his throat.
“A door, by definition, is usually a panel that covers an opening. It can be moved to leave the opening accessible, allowing passage between the inside, outside or internal parts of a structure. It can be closed to prevent such passage thus providing security. This much, you will allow, is obvious. What is by no means obvious is that all doors have ‘a behind’.”
The professor paused to admit some polite laughter.
“Some doors undoubtedly do have behinds. For instance – when one opens a conventional door so that it abuts against a wall, the space enclosed between door and wall is usually considered to be behind the door. Also as one stands in front of a door, ‘before’ it, as it were, one creates, in essence, a concomitant ‘behind’. The idea of passage through a door as being movement towards the future, also encompasses a notion of leaving the past behind. Western culture is strewn with references to the door as a metaphor for the unknown. Behind the door is seen as something dark, sinister – a private world. It is a curiosity. The thresh hold of the unfamiliar.
The audience was silent. Futuro took a sip of water.
“However, there are some doors which I think cannot truly be said to have behinds. Concertina doors, sliding doors, automatic doors and revolving doors for example do not open in the conventional way – yet visit to any superstore on a Bank Holiday weekend, might lead to the conclusion that they have too many behinds.”
He thought this jape, particularly fine and waited for the ripple of laughter which did not come.
“But back to the doctor’s question. Perhaps our dear friend had intimations of mortality and was giving consideration to those grave issues – grave issues – to which we all must inevitably pay attention.
Pierre La Porte was a serious man who always made me think deeply about what was important. I never knew him to ask a frivolous question.
‘What is behind the door?”
Futuro held aloft the very paper on which the question was written.
“After all my deliberations, I have come to only one conclusion. What is behind the door, is that, which is behind – everything.”
The professor stood on tiptoe and leaned over the lectern. There was absolute hush. The answer must be most profound.
“What is behind the door, my friend – is the concept.”
He lifted a glass and drank deeply. “To La Porte!”