I love labyrinths and their qualities. My awareness of labyrinths increased alongside my awareness of my self being distinct from the rest of the world. This, of course, is a gradual process from when a baby separates from its mother at birth … but when does conscious cognition set in, to the extent that an individual can state affirmatively, “I am different and separate and individual from you and them”?
Sometime in primary school reading habits change from parents and careers reading to a child, and that child choosing books to read for themselves. Protagonists went on adventures and had exciting times, and with a wide enough range of plots and genres some of them inevitably ended up needing to solve problems to get out of danger. As they puzzled their way forwards they hit dead ends and needed to backtrack: introducing … the maze.
Mazes are labyrinthine in that there are many twists and turns, yet they differ in one fundamental way: mazes erroneously lead people into walls. This makes them a puzzle to solve rather than a track to journey, a journey to traverse.
Mazes tend to have walls higher than the people in them, to prevent cheats from skipping to the end (one way in and another way out), whereas all of the labyrinths I’ve seen are fully visible at all times – and they enter and exit from the same spot: this means that the walker can meditate on the journey while simultaneously keeping the Big Picture and Intricate Detail in mind … and there’s something satisfying about entering and exiting from the same place, as if this was, is, and always will be the right place to be.
… and to top it all off, who can deny that “labyrinthine” is one of most fabulous words in the English language, both for the sound it makes rolling off the tongue, and for the imaginative and mysterious images it conjures up …