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I'm reading An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness. I don't understand this part:

I couldn't help thinking, with more than a trace of bitterness, that God seldom opens one door that he doesn't close another.

(should I put 'its' or 'the' here?)Preceding sentence is I couldn't help thinking with more than a trace of bitterness, and (same question) following sentence is However, I couldn't afford not to..

I've seen this only in an affirmitive form(when god closes~~ he opens~~), and while I think I might know what it means.. oh no.. I don't know what it's saying. Some double negative thing..term for this.. Could you explain this with an emphasis on the usage of 'that'?

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  • @Josh no, he is referring to this book books.google.com/… – DavePhD May 22 '17 at 21:32
  • @DavePhD wow, what a world. It is the book I'm reading. So what does it mean? – hermes May 22 '17 at 21:36
  • It means you can't catch a break. – Hot Licks May 22 '17 at 21:57
  • It is a profoundly pessimistic inversion of the commonly heard hopeful expression 'God seldom closes one door that He doesn't open another' -- simply by exchanging the places of 'open' and 'close', the author twists the optimistic sentiment into one of deep pessimism, while also alerting the reader to this twist by using the word 'bitterness' in the first part of the sentence. Within the context of the book you are reading, which our member DavePhD so kindly found and referenced here, such extreme negation of hope is a cardinal sign of severe (even dangerous) depressive illness. – English Student May 22 '17 at 22:43
  • @EnglishStudent — Please follow the instructions in the Comment box (or re-read the site guidelines if you use a mobile). "Use comments to ask for more information or suggest improvements. Avoid answering questions in comments." Whatever other people do, this is what the site requests. If you ignore it you are breaking the SE model. – David May 28 '17 at 19:57
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The original sentence from An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness is:

I couldn't help thinking, with more than a trace of bitterness, that God seldom opens one door that he doesn't close another.

I think it would make more sense to say:

"...seldom does God open one door without closing another".

  • Upvoted for the citation. Certainly this quote is disquieting — or should I say unquieting? – Steven Scotten May 22 '17 at 21:45
  • @StevenScotten she dropped her lithium pills while praying in a cathedral. So she bitterly thought that God closed a door. (At least that's my interpretation). – DavePhD May 22 '17 at 21:49
  • that's my interpretation too. It's a bitter twist on what you've established is a much older expression. – Steven Scotten May 22 '17 at 21:58
  • Yes, it is a profoundly pessimistic inversion of the commonly heard hopeful expression 'God seldom closes one door that He doesn't open another' -- within the context of the book you so kindly found and referenced here for our benefit, such extreme negation of hope is a cardinal sign of depressive illness. – English Student May 22 '17 at 22:38
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I've always heard this as some variation on "when one door closes, another one opens." Yes, usually with God doing the opening and closing. This is the first time I've encountered it with the opening of one door as the first part.

From a secular point of view, I take it purely as "any lost opportunity creates other opportunities." It's at least hard to argue with the proposition that if you can't go one way you ought to look for other directions to go rather than spending emotional energy over the lost opportunity.

The above is not an interpretation of the phrase you asked about, but I hope it contains useful context so I'm keeping it in. I suspect that the line from Jamison was written to intentionally contrast against the adage I've heard.

I read "that" in your example as "so that" or "in order that". It's a construction I see in religious (formal and/or archaic sounding even if not actually formal or archaic) usage eg "Jesus died that we all may have eternal life."

  • Edited to make clear that my interpretation was not of the phrase from the original question. – Steven Scotten May 22 '17 at 21:50
  • There is a quote from 1852 "When the Lord closes one door, then, and seldom till then, He opens another" books.google.com/… – DavePhD May 22 '17 at 21:54
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I couldn't help thinking, with more than a trace of bitterness, that God seldom opens one door that he doesn't close another.

If I believed in God, I might use this sentence, or concept, to talk about an unfortunate coincidence in my own life, which was that around the same time my first child was born, my PhD advisor died.

I would not have had to be profoundly depressed to come to this conclusion.

That is my personal opinion. I hope this example helps you understand the paragraph in the book you are reading.

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