Monday, September 22, 2014
we are living in a labyrinth
My son, Blake, and I recently found a lovely surprise while we were out having a walk at the wetlands near our house. Somebody had celebrated the beginning of spring by creating this labyrinth out of sticks, twigs, rose petals and sprigs of lavender.
I know labyrinths have ancient origins, which piqued my curiosity. Some people say they have deep spiritual meaning, while others simply see a twisting path which ends in the middle. Looked at like that, it may be hard to see their significance. I remember being let loose in hedge mazes on holidays, but labyrinths don't even have dead ends to get lost in. I can imagine kids saying, 'What's the fun of them, then?' That's why I decided to look them up on Google.
Some people regard the journey through a labyrinth as a three-staged trip. First comes the journey inward. Second, you get to spend time in the centre, regarding it as a nesting place where you're held in God's safe and loving embrace. Finally, there's the trip back out, to join the world again.
With all this in mind, I've returned to our wetlands labyrinth, sometimes with the kids and sometimes alone. We've fixed it up from time to time, when twigs have blown away in the wind. I've walked through, and although I haven't felt quite the same awe as the ancient pilgrims, I can see how people may say there are life analogies.
2) Similarly, you may think you see the end in sight, because you're standing right beside the centre, and then another sudden sweep will take you right back to the outer limits of the labyrinth again. It's not going to be as quick and easy as you've hoped. We may think we've exhausted our knowledge about a particular topic, and then a curve in our path will reveal that we probably know only a fraction of all there is to know. We've been fooled by the labyrinth twists. It turns out we may be self-proclaimed 'experts' who are really further away from our destinations than we thought.
4) When you're on the ground actually walking it, every step of the path may look pretty much the same as the rest, with the centre coming suddenly. It takes more of a birds-eye view to see the beautiful pattern we've been walking. The bigger the labyrinth, the more true this may be, and I can't think of a bigger one than life itself. Unlike a maze, there are no actual dead-ends for us to get lost in and have to turn back. There may seem to be dead-ends in life, but looking at them from a higher perspective, they turn out to be part of the labyrinth after all. We learn our lessons from the apparent false detours and kept moving toward the centre.
The famous labyrinth of Chartres Cathedral, France, which has been duplicated for other places.
5) We get an enforced chance to deliberately slow down to the speed at which life is meant to be lived. In these fast-paced 21st century times, we're encouraged to choose our goals and zoom after them, like an arrow whizzing straight to the target. Life is really designed more like a labyrinth, with twisting paths we all have to follow, and the walk is as important as the destination. My older son and daughter seem to be on a stage of life's labyrinth where they don't get this. If we ask them to come for an afternoon walk with us, they say, 'No, because you don't walk with a particular destination in mind. You just ramble around for the sake of it, and that's boring.' Our younger son still seems to understand the point of doing things which seem to have no point, but I think he's showing signs of catching up to the part of the path which they're on.
I can't help hoping our local labyrinth will last for a long time. No people or animals have walked past and messed it up yet, after several weeks, which I think is a nice surprise on its own. When I go to walk in the wetlands, I can often tell with a glance that it's still there, when I occasionally see people walking in weird circle shapes on the ground. I wonder if that's how we all look to the angels above.