The Doors, Break On Through: the meaning of Jim Morrison’s visions

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This story is part of the book:
Mama Mia Let Me Go!
A journey through the most intriguing lyrics and stories in rock music

Buy it on Amazon

If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it truly is, infinite

William Blake

Crossing the prophetic “doors of perception”, as predicted by William Blake, was becoming the only way to escape from this dirty, corrupt, agonising world. At least, this was possible with our minds.

The desire to escape from reality hides a deep need to know. We are fascinated by the unknown and we keep asking ourselves questions like, “What is the meaning of life?” “What comes after death?” “Are we alone in the universe?”

The thing we all are most hungry for is knowledge. It’s knowing what the meaning of life is, and it’s precisely what science has never been able to provide. Only religion has been able to partly fill this void. And we all continue to seek a “sense” of our existence.

This doesn’t mean that this sense must necessarily be a truth. We can imagine it, but nothing can extinguish the hidden desire that all of us have: we want to turn on the light in the dark room where dreams, hopes and truths become muddled.

The Doors - Break On Through HQ (1967)

You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day
Tried to run
Tried to hide

Break on through to the other side

That’s why Break On Through, the song that summarises Morrison’s visionary poetics in the best possible way, is an exhortation, an imperative: open the passage to the other side.

The world is the kingdom of illusions and contraries (“You know the day destroys the night / Night divides the day”), the place that tries to stop our research. Love, above all, can become a distracting refuge, the chain that imprisons the present. As Jim Morrison sings:

I found an island in your arms
Country in your eyes
Arms that chain
Eyes that lie

Break on Through, found on The Doors’ eponymous first album, exasperates us while summarising the origins of Morrison’s entire poetry. Few verses give off an overall sense of alienated impotence in the same way, where we and the author are imprisoned, crushed between reality and imagination, between everyday life and visions. What we need is clear: we have to open up the pathway and reach the other side. The side of “life” where you see things as they really are.

Made the scene
Week to week
Day to day
Hour to hour
The gate is strait
Deep and wide

The “scene” is often understood as life, and the passage through the “strait gate” is a reference to Strait Is the Gate, André Gide’s book about the complexities and terrors related to adolescence and the road to maturity. The opening the passage is therefore a process of growth, but it also represents awareness of the duality of life, and about the deceptions that it subjects us to. Your eyes offer you whole nations, but they are lying.

The answers that Jim Morrison gives are therefore uncertain and enigmatic. There is probably no way to achieve certainty when we ask questions of that magnitude. What is certain, however, is that one cannot help but continue to seek balance amid so much chaos, otherwise living will always be like being carried away on an unstoppable tide.

We chased our pleasures here
Dug our treasures there
But can’t you still recall
The time we cried

This story is part of the book:
Mama Mia Let Me Go!
A journey through the most intriguing lyrics and stories in rock music

Buy it on Amazon

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