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Life’s A-Mazes

By Ancelin Wolfe

I am reading an essay on mazes, specifically the maze at Chartres, but other mazes, as well. The author, Rosemary Deen, suggests at the essay’s outset that “All learning is entering the maze. Deeper and deeper you go, confiding in and made confident by your tutor at every step as you go on. You don’t look back at first because you are engrossed and made to forget that there is such a thing as looking back. As you go on, your footsteps scroll up behind you, and you can never get them back – but you don’t know that.”

Heraclitus wrote centuries ago “No man steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

And so we go on, deeper into the maze and edging our feet into the water, and we and it – maze or water – are not the same as we were before – or as we will be in life places ahead. We are always learning, losing, and shifting through time. Time and experience, and our awareness, or lack thereof, of ourselves are the variables and the varying. Our sight brightens, dims, changes focus.

As mentioned about a week ago, “All who wander are not lost.” I would add: although it may not seem that way at the time. We are on some inner path, some way through the maze, the dark wood, to the brightening river.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Participants’ Reflections:

  • That was wonderful. What jumped out at me was I had forgotten the words by Heraclitus. We have seen over the last year how powerful the theme of water is. It’s a constant ebb and flow, it’s cleansing. It’s not for nothing that it’s featured in baptism rituals. Thank you so much. I really appreciated that. It strikes me that water reflects light.

  • Thank you so much. That was wonderful. In particular, I loved what you wrote and I love the poem. I first learned that poem when I sang it. There’s a wonderful choral arrangement by Randall Thompson. I had that playing in my head during the meditation this morning. It’s really lovely. Another beautiful way to enjoy that poem.

  • Thank you so much. I want to share my appreciation for how relevant what you shared today. I’m working on a project of reentry of humanity back into their day-to-day lives, especially in the corporate world right now. We are at a juncture about what path we all take now. It was so relevant to understand that we are walking through a maze, we are coming out of the pandemic, and we are at a crossroads of a new day. What you wrote was so relevant. I appreciate it.

  • I got to thinking, in my meditation, wondering if mazes have more than one way in and out. They can. I hadn’t realized that. I’ve been thinking of mazes made with greenery, and there’s usually one way in and a couple of ways you can get lost, and one way out. There’s a maze made every year in cornfields and people get lost and have to be rescued. I don’t know where that leaves us. The other thing I thought about is that there are algorithms to create mazes. It’s another connection.

  • Thank you. That was really great everything you said. As soon as you said the word maze, I thought of how we are all connected. I was thinking this morning that I am in such a maze, bumping into walls, can’t seem to find a way out because it is so difficult. So, I’m using this time to pray to find a solution and for clarity. Thank you.

  • Thank you so much. I went several ways with this. My first thought came from the line ‘all learning is a maze’. I interpreted that as all learning is amazing. That came from watching my six-month-old granddaughter learn about the world around her. She’s got cause and effect. She initiates. Things can capture her attention. I walked away from her and came back to her and saw her looking at me. The amount of non-verbal communication was huge. She’s learning to communicate without words and succeeding. Listening to your meditation reading, I wondered about stepping into a river. Why do that? What is it about that? For me, I love new experiences and it takes me to new experiences, more than being an observer. It was a powerful meditation time. Thank you.

  • Thank you. That was such a thoughtful and thought-provoking reading. When I first heard it, I had the word labyrinth in my mind instead of maze. You follow a labyrinth in and then out. There’s a process of focusing on your footsteps and not thinking back. But when you started talking about getting lost in a maze, I couldn’t figure out what you meant until I realized my mistake. It just shows how what we think we are hearing isn’t always what is being said. I also think back to Ariadne providing a string to Theseus to kill the minotaur. That is one way to not get lost, keep track of the path one is taking instead of just trusting. Thank you for all the reminders.

  • When I think about mazes, I think of all the years I lived parenting both my children, and the struggle and the fear and the dead-ends and turning around finding other solutions over and over again. The operating factor through the whole thing is that I couldn’t really think clearly or see clearly unless I controlled my fear. With mazes, understanding my reaction to fear helped me survive it. That’s how I think of mazes.

  • WE are a maze seeking our labyrinth. If we look at others, knowing they too are spinning their mazes looking for their labyrinths, we could all learn more patience perhaps!

  • Thank you. Thank you for what you wrote, for the contemplation that brought about this piece, taking the time, and trusting the process. It’s a process that is a learning on all different levels, when we write, when we share, and when we listen. I encourage others to share. This is a collaborative process. I wish you all a gentle day for healing to continue for those who haven’t been feeling well, and for healing to arrive when you ask for it, and for comfort as we go about our day.

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