from the editor: Spring 2024, “open”

Photo by Monica Foltz

In the first draft of this letter to open our issue on the theme of “open,” I wrote an anecdote about the students I taught in Greece who used the phrase “Open the lights” or “Close the lights” when they meant “Turn on the lights” or “Turn off the lights” in English. Their phrasing always puzzled me, until one day, with a flashback to making circuit boards in fourth grade, I realized they must be referencing the fact that behind the wall, a circuit was open when a student switched the light on and closed when they switched the light off. 

With this anecdote, I planned to make beautiful connections between having an open heart and light and the Divine. A closed circuit that produced no light would lend itself well to defining “sin” as “separation” and how having a closed heart blocks the light from shining and causes division between ourselves and others. I planned to include these sentences, which I thought were very magnificent: “Open the lights. Connect the wires. Remove the blockage. Unfold. Behold.” It was rhythmic, it was easy, it was perfect. Until I did some research.

As it turns out, I was wrong, on two accounts. The Greek words for “open” and “on” are the same, as are the words for “close” and “off” — my students assumed the way they referred to the lights in Greek translated directly into English the same way; there was no deeper meaning to it. And, secondly: An “open” circuit is broken and means the light is off. A “closed” circuit means the circuit is continuous, and the light is on. This discovery, as you can imagine, kind of ruined my plan to talk about openness in circuits leading to light and how our own open hearts can, too. 

But that’s what openness can do. It can cause us to rethink what we assume is right but is actually wrong; it can lead us deeper into what is actually true. And I want to know what is actually true. Even when it ruins my metaphors.

So, in this issue of flourish, we examine the concept of “open.” We meet Drucella Perkins, who, along with her siblings, renovated a home on 95 acres in Cape Girardeau County, where they practice the art of hospitality, opening the house to guests. Three women who are practitioners in their fields have a conversation with women who inspire them who are up-and-coming in their area of expertise, opening their life stories and experiences to each other. And three women open their daily bags to us, to show us the contents and what their possessions reveal and don’t reveal about the day-to-day happenings of their lives. May these stories open your mind and heart to the people around you, as well as to new ways of thinking, seeing and experiencing. 

Because what fun is life if we’re not open to being wrong, if we’re not open to it all being more wild and mysterious and straightforward than we thought it was? Openness allows us to have our worldviews corrected, changed, transformed; to move towards each other, to need another, to connect; to leave behind our loneliness, our pride, our self-sufficiency. To realize: A closed circuit — not an open one — is what has the power to illuminate. 

Openness keeps us able to learn all of that, allows ourselves and the world we perceive to be corrected and complicated and simplified. 

And that’s pretty illuminating.