Recently four of us visited the Labyrinth in Milton Keynes. I gather that labyrinths have their origins in the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. Which is odd when one considers that the Minotaur was half man, half bull and had been impriosned to punish him for his sexual activities.these days labyrinths are linked to finding one’s spiritual path. The Milton Keynes labyrtinth is set out in a series of paths that eventually lead to the centre and a tree. (The Tree of knowledge, one assumes.) From here one can return by re-tracing one’s footsteps or take a short cut out.
There were four of us walking this labyrinth- five if we count my dog, who was probably unaware of the mystic possibilities of this walk. Two of the company had come with the express intention of engaging in a spiritual activity .They walked slowly, meditatively and thoughtfully, carefully following the path set out for them. At least one of this pair wanted to the Universe to provide her with some guidance about her life. Her companion walked equally thoughtfully but with less urgency. Another of the party, my wife, walked it at walking pace. she was not rushing it but she was not being particularly contemplative. She had come to walk this path and that she would do .I however, was bemused.
The labyrinth , it should be explained, is only a series cinder paths in a large bowl. there are no barriers between one path and another. Thus one may simply cut across all the paths to reach the centre or one can cut across some. And so on. so whilst my wife was dutifully walking the set path, i simply walked across from line to line to carry on talking with her. (It simply seemed easier and more straightforward to do this.) After a short time I left the labyrinth and took my dog for a walk by the lake.
There are numerous ways of reading this account. One might wonder at my “anarchy”. I saw no point in going along a pre set path simply because it was there. I also found the lake and the trees much more appealing. (As did my dog!) This is not untypical of me. I find following pre-set paths annoying and frustrating most of the time. (But not always otherwise I would be unable to work as a counsellor or lecturer where structure is vital.)
My wife walked the labyrinth because this was why she had come. And, having walked it, she came back and sat down with my dog and me whilst we waited for the other two walkers to finish their pilgrimage. My wife kept to the prescribed route. Did not short cut but did not linger unduly. I don’t know what she “got” from the walk.Our companions, who were the one’s who had wanted to do this walk walked it slowly and evenly.And said that they had enjoyed the evening.
This walk stayed with me. On the whole i did not enjoy the evening. I did my walk around the lake, came back and wanted to go home. I did not want to have to wait for my wife. Even less did I want to wait for my companions. But I did wait. And we eventually drove home, each with our own experience of the evening.
I remembered again why i don’t do this kind of activity very often. In the same way that I don’t enjoy National Trust houses. The family histories do nothing for me. I’m just not interested in knowing that somebody’s Great Uncle five times removed on their mother’s side fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie. (But I can enthuse about a small carving or other unseen detail.) My wife, however, does enjoy this kind of visit. (We long ago agreed that I would wait in the tea room with a novel whilst she tours the house. I still can’t quite believe how long she can take over three floors of armour and dim oil paintings!)
The moral of this story? i’m not sure. Perhaps that we all find our way as best we can in this labyrinth we call life?