Labyrinths: Walking Toward The Center
Gernot Candolini

P. 15 Through the Labyrinth: Designs and Meanings Over 5,000 Years by Herman Kern.

P. 23 In preparation for the dance, they tell us, the youngest priest was to procure a golden yellow ball. After Easter vespers, he handed the ball over to the dean or bishop, while the priests formed a circle around the labyrinth. Then the dean danced the tripudium, a thumping three-step, through the labyrinth, while the priests danced around the labyrinth in a circle. Throughout the dance the ball, symbolizing the Easter Sun rising over the labyrinth, was tossed back and forth between the priests and the dean. After this Easter dance a great banquet was served.

This dance in the church labyrinths was a tradition that lasted for more than three centuries. When I think about our contemporary world, which is surprisingly stiff in so many ways, I like to imagine that deans and bishops might restore this tradition and at least once a year dare to do a little dance with their colleagues. I can readily imagine that such a dance would conjure up a smile on the faces not only of the bishops and priests, but of the entire community and perhaps even the angels. [Compare this to David dancing before the ark; the kohanim dancing in the outer court of the temple and Secretary of State Collin Powell performing YMCA at an internal summit. JH]

P. 25 The path at Chartres [A rush to near the center followed by a spiraling to the outer limit before curving back to the center] reminds us of the course of a love affair. When you first fall in love as a young couple, you must find your way toward the center quickly and easily. Then things slowly and steadily move away from the center. That first magnetic pull of love loses its intensity. You perceive yourselves as increasingly distant from your shared center. Some can lose the sense that they travel a shared path at all. But those who choose to go on may find that path returns again, together, to their common center.

A progressive unbroken nearing to the goal, however, as at [the Cathedral of] Sens, is sometimes the experience one has in a large, creative project. At every step of the work, the feeling grows that one is slowly getting closer and closer to the goal.

In the end, the labyrinth of Chartres strikes us as the more comforting pattern. Just when you you”ve strayed hopelessly far from the goal, it’s actually getting closer and closer. You need to persevere. It’s an unfamiliar thought, though one that proves often true: many who have gotten close have found there”s a long way to go, while not all those who have ranged afar are truly far from their goal.

P. 39 A numerical labyrinth. A square is divided into twenty-five little boxes; all except the center box are inscribed with a number between one and four. to add to the challenge each number is also marked as a positive or negative number. The objective is to reach the center marked “zero,” in specified number of steps, in such a way that the sum of all the numbered squares stepped on equals zero as well. I place myself on the starting square. It has the number one, so I can take one step. You can step vertically or horizontally. I step aside and find myself on number three, so I can take three steps. Now I have to try to find way through the labyrinth, as I keep moving the prescribed number of steps ahead. [Damn, why didn’t Candolini include the “+” and “-” signs?]
2 2 4 1 3
3 3 1 3 2
1 2 0 2 3
3 2 3 2 4
4 2 1 3 2

P. 41 His idée fixe [An idea that dominates one’s mind especially for a prolonged period: obsession. Merriam Webster”s 10th, 1836.]

P. 46 When you expect the extraordinary to happen, it never does. It can only come unexpectedly, as a gift. Maybe I”ll get another chance somewhere else.

P. 47 On a path two great crises await you. The first comes when the magic of the beginning has vanished. The second comes just before the goal. Both ask the question: do you really want this?

P. 48 It”s as if I”m contemplating the violation of a holy space, an unspoken rule: you can only go to the center if you”re also taking the whole journey. To simply go heedlessly through it would be barbaric. [Is this a metaphor for education, for the difference between extrinsic (goal orientated) and intrinsic (journey orientated) thinking?]

P. 114 …it helps to remember that myths and fairy tales describe not external realities, but rather internal ones.

P. 114 Great heroes don”t necessarily make great lovers. Love, though, is always the higher goal. It”s the most precious thing to be gained, the only thing that makes life worthwhile.

In a sense, the labyrinth has two paths: the path in and the path out. Two fitting names for these paths now occur to me. I call the way in “the path of the hero,” and the path out “the path of love.” The way in the path to the center, is the path toward a goal I want to reach. But what good is a goal if I haven”t won it in my heart, if it doesn”t lead me back to love?

Some people who have walked the many miles to Santiago or to Rome speak of a great inner emptiness on the day after the triumph. Many climb aboard a train or a plane, returning home by the most direct path available …just as some who walk the labyrinth exit straight out from the center. Perhaps these sojourners rob themselves of the path back.

P. 131 The path out of the labyrinth is less spectacular. From the perspective of the world obsessed with expansion, it”s even a path of descent, a path on which one no longer pulls off any great achievements. It”s a path that men in particular have a hard time taking¡. [In the story of Pardes, four entered, ascended, but only one returned. The other three were lost or destroyed. Is this parallel to Candolini”s observation? JH]

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