Wednesday, September 05, 2007
as you, gentle readers, know full well, is not the same as a labyrinth.
Try as you might, you can't get lost in a labyrinth, as it leads you on its inexorable route to the centre, and then safely out again. Labyrinths* have a long and honourable history in Christian spirituality, whether they simply provide a prayer path on which you cannot go astray, or include interactive stations en route, designed to deepen the experience.
The whole point of the labyrinth is that it always takes you to the centre - there is no wrong turning possible. No wonder it's a beloved metaphor for our journey with the God who "searches out our paths and is acquainted with all our ways".
A maze, however, is a very different matter.
A maze can involve any number of false starts and dead ends, can confront you repeatedly with the need to turn round and retrace your steps. You may, indeed, never succeed in completing your route at all (always supposing you're sure where you are trying to go in the first place). Mazes are designed to lead you astray...to mislead (an old name was "miz maze" - which says alot about the crazy, wandering path).
I was struck by this as I walked the grass maze at Greenbelt. This year's design was a complex one, based on the forms of two people, curled round each other, each intent on the other**.
Once people are involved, things do get complicated. No surpises there, then.
In human relationships, things are rarely straightforward, and wrong turnings are all too possible.
It's tempting to simply leap off an unpromising path and see if the one next door is more productive...but there could be a value in simply retracing your steps and trying to see where you first took a wrong turning.
Perhaps it doesn't actually matter if you don't arrive anywhere, as long as you make the most of the journey.
I spent a while watching others walk the Greenbelt maze.
Children, in fact, didn't walk at all. They skipped, hopped, ran - and if they reached a dead end, more often than not they giggled hugely.
For adults, it was a more serious business. They seemed to walk with intense concentration, even anxiety. Getting things right mattered far more - and the success of the journey would only be determined by a safe arrival at a particular goal.
I'm not good at following directions, so I often get lost.
Sometimes this bothers me hugely...I get tearful and panicky if I know that someone is waiting for me, that I'm running the risk of letting anyone down by a late arrival or a no-show.
At others, though, I'm able to detach the journey from the end point and savour it for its own sake..and then getting lost doesnt' matter at all.
No conclusions to draw - just some thoughts, one morning at Greenbelt.
*More about labyrinths in worship here
**I've really tried to find details of the designer online, but without success...my apologies that I'm writing about her work without a link to her site. Stupid of me not to write things down at the time, but there we go.