Side trip: Labyrinths & Mazes

A bonus post because the idea popped into my head.

As we were looking at the metaphor of taking the path as part of the structure of RITUAL, it occurred to me that there's some unpacking to do of that metaphor in terms of the roadblocks we experience on the path.

Because here's the deal: a labyrinth is not a maze

 Pretty a-MAZ-ing.  (I'll show myself out.)

Pretty a-MAZ-ing.  (I'll show myself out.)

A maze is a puzzle.  There are wrong turns and dead ends in a maze.  You can get lost in a maze.

 The classic 7-circuit "Cretan" labyrinth

The classic 7-circuit "Cretan" labyrinth

On the other hand, despite the movie's title, a labyrinth is a single path.  Once you start a labyrinth, you cannot get lost.  You can go forward or backward, and it may twist and turn a lot, and you will find yourself circling away from the center several times before you get there.  But you will never get lost.  You will end up at the center if you're going in, and at the exit if you're going out.

Shouldn't our metaphor for the creative journey be a maze, then, instead of a labyrinth?

I don't think so, and I'll tell you why.

 The Chartres Cathedral labyrinth

The Chartres Cathedral labyrinth

Yes, we encounter dead ends and take wrong turns all the time as we struggle to Make the Thing That Is Not, but I think it is more useful to think of our struggle as one long journey. Anyone who has walked a labyrinth knows that although one of the purposes of a labyrinth is to provide a meditative space, a calming experience, sometimes the experience is not as serene as you might think.

As we walk the one path in—or at least, as I walk it—all those dead ends and wrong turns are happening in my head, especially if I've brought a problem to the labyrinth for working on.  Remember how I presumed that Jane Austen was able to work at a desk in the hall without setting aside time to do so because she was doing the actual writing in her head?

 A variant 7-circuit labyrinth

A variant 7-circuit labyrinth

That's how I prefer to see my "path" as I write or compose or garden or bartend: one steady walk to the center, with all the choices being made along the way, part of the journey—not a frantic running hither and thither in ever-increasing frustration and panic.  Notice how the image of the maze above has an entrance, but no exit?  It doesn't even seem to have a goal.  That's not the way I want to view my work.

Take a breath, then take the path.

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