When I was a small boy on the farm I was often sent to the basement to fetch a jar of preserves or a pail of honey. This required extreme care. As I came down the cellar steps I could see, on my right, the open door of the coal-bin, blank and black. During this expedition I never once took my eyes off that dreadful doorway.

I would walk past the furnace on my left, then turn and walk backwards to the shelves, grope behind my back for the required container, then sidle past the furnace and up the stairs, watching over my shoulder, in a state of constant tension until the basement door was safely shut.

One day, however, I had been given a thorough tongue-lashing for some sort of criminal negligence, then sent for a bottle of pickles. I was feeling so worthless, so utterly wretched, that from the foot of the stairs I walked straight to the coal-bin and turned so as to stand squarely in the doorway with my back to whatever was there. It was welcome to kill me and rid the earth of an outcast beyond redemption.

But at the same time, in the midst of my despair, I couldn’t help but be surprised at my own behaviour. It was interesting: It seemed that what I felt inside myself changed the way the world looked outside.

Now, seventy years later, I am inclined to think that in some way that I don’t quite understand it changes the way the world is.