Tuesday 21 February 2006

Kicking open the door to your mind

Back in 1988, Bruce Springsteen described the first time he heard a Bob Dylan song: “The first time I heard Bob Dylan, I was in the car with my mother ... and on came that snare shot that sounded like somebody had kicked open the door to your mind: ‘Like a Rolling Stone.’”

This is a wonderful account not only of the power of “Like a Rolling Stone,” but also of a certain kind of human experience. Suddenly, when you least expect it, something “kicks open the door to your mind,” and you know that you will never see the world in quite the same way again.

I have had a few very striking experiences of this kind. One day, when I was a little boy in my first year of school, I saw a little girl who had no lunch. The sight of her disturbed me—but only later that day (when it was too late) did it dawn on me that I should have shared my lunch with her. For some reason, this realisation shocked me, and I have never forgotten it.

Then when I was 10 years old, I spent my Christmas holidays reading Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. This, too, was something that “kicked open the door to my mind”—it took me outside myself in a way I had never experienced before.

Then there was the day I picked up a dusty old copy of Karl Barth’s book, The Word of God and the Word of Man (now re-translated as The Word of God and Theology). As I read this book, the whole word suddenly appeared in a new light. Everything looked different—to quote another Bob Dylan song, “I got new eyes.” By the time I reached Barth’s statement that “one can not speak of God simply by speaking of man in a loud voice,” the door to my mind had been well and truly kicked open.

What about you? What has kicked your mind open?


Anonymous said...

Barth's Romans was the experience that unhinged me. (Interestingly, on 1:16 Barth observes that "The Gospel is not the door but the hinge.")

On 3:22: "For all faith is both simple and difficult; for all alike it is a scandal, a hazard, a 'Nevertheless'; to all it presents the same embarrassment and the same promise; for all it is a leap into the void. And it is possible for all, only because for all it is equally impossible."

By 12:7-8, it was destiny time. Written in the margin [sorry, Ben!] is the date 2/10/77. The text is "Perhaps there is one that preacheth". The commentary reads: "The theme of the clergy is the disturbance which has been prepared by God for men, and the promise which He has given them."

Needless to say, as I went through the conciliar hoops to have my call tested, my interviewers were rather gobsmacked that a young man had been brought to Christ and Christian ministry by - Karl Barth!

T.B. Vick said...


Have you ever seen Bob Dylan in concert?

Anonymous said...


Allow me to gloat. I saw Dylan at the Isle of Wight concert in 1969 - with The Band playing back-up! "Is this heaven?"

Ben Myers said...

Kim, you lucky chap. The Isle of Wight concert achieved legendary status as one of the great moments of Dylan's career. I'd be gloating too....

Tragically, though, I myself have never seen the man in concert. He came to Australia twice in recent years, but on both occasions I was just in the wrong town at the wrong time. Sigh.

T.B. Vick said...

Hmmm . . . ok, you beat me on that one! However, I saw him July 28th, 1988. The Alarm opened for him. But, I was on the 17th row - way up close.

Anonymous said...

Yes . . . NEO has kicked my mind open.

Ben Myers said...

Sounds like you should have chosen the blue pill instead, Glenn. A kick from Neo would be painful stuff.... ;-)

Chris TerryNelson said...

The first time I had the door of my mind kicked open was when I Bonhoeffer's "Life Together" in our youth ministry. It made me rethink a lot of my relationships, especially in church, as well as what it means to spend time alone (something that's hard for me as an extrovert). The other book that had a huge influence on me was Kierkegaard's "Fear and Trembling." Teenagers doubt a lot, and I realized that I could still doubt but walk in faith. Faith stopped being an "ascent to belief with absolute certainty" and became more of a process effected by the grace of God rather than my propositional attitude.

Anonymous said...


Ben Myers said...

You've got that right, Ken.

David Williamson said...

Watching Kieslowski's Three Colours Red as an 18 year old was a journey into the uncanny from which I've never quite returned!

Nine years later, reading Barth's Dogmatics in Outline was the moment when the lightbulb was switched on - but credit for getting to that point should go to Alister McGrath for his fantastic Introduction to Christian Theology.

Sam Charles Norton said...

Reading Robert Pirsig's 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' when I was 18 - laid the groundwork for the collapse of my atheism. (His sequel, 'Lila', calls this experience 'Dynamic Quality' by the way). As for theology, it was reading John Robinson's 'Honest to God' as a first year undergraduate (still atheist) and realising that I had mentally equated Christianity and Fundamentalism. Set me on the path I'm still enjoying walking along

Kyle said...

Mine got kicked open by Moltmann's assertion that Jesus died as in the place of all the godforsaken, and that his vindication brought theirs. I have no idea how obvious that was to everyone else in the world, but it was a pretty big deal for me.

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