Tag Archives: labyrinth

Enter the Labyrinth

Trying not to think too much about Children of the Corn, I visited a corn maze over the weekend. This particular autumnal activity highlights just how much detail a human mind can pick out in a mass of sameness. You can tell if you’ve been to this particular juncture before—that oddly shaped leaf, or that peculiar stone, or that specific ear with the missing teeth will give you the clues. This particular maze, however, also uses printed clues. Before you enter the labyrinth, you may choose your species of guidance. There were 4-H clues, Girl Scout clues, history clues, and more. One of my companions handed me the scriptural clues. Although it may have been an obvious connection, I thought about it in terms of salvation. A corn maze is not unlike life in the real world; confusion, false leads, and aimless wandering. Having a guide—in my case, knowing the Bible—will lead you out.

corn-maze

Of course, the point of a corn maze is the fun of getting lost. This particular farm had eight acres dedicated to fall fun, and our party did get hopelessly mired in one location and had to ask for help from the corn cop who wanders like a friendly minotaur, or maybe a personal Daedalus or helpful Ariadne, directing those who’ve lost their way. The idea is that once you enter the maze, you look for numbered clues at various junctures—only a few crossroads have them—and answer the question for instructions about which way to go next. Even with the Bible in hand, or in head, we managed to lose our way. Baptized by a sudden cloudburst, we sought shelter in an open field. The only way ahead was to press on.

Those who’ve been with this blog for any length of time know that it is intentionally kind of a labyrinth, often using metaphor. In the case of the literal corn maze and its clues, minimal biblical knowledge was required to figure out the correct way to turn. The trick was even after getting all the hints, there was still some distance to go. Wet, confused, and having only our wits to go on, by trial and error we made it through. Our instructions—for we each had a different set of questions—only got us so far. My biblical guide was damp and see-through with the soaking we received. Metaphors were falling as fast as the rain. After all, the point of a corn maze is that you don’t get your money’s worth unless you get well and truly lost.

California State of Mind

California, it is sometimes said, is a state of mind. I leave today after a few days in Santa Barbara with a bag of mixed impressions of one of our nations great schools. My first impression on the University of California Santa Barbara campus was almost a physical one. Literally. I had no idea of the bicycle culture and nearly stepped into a bike lane with the flow of a New Jersey storm drain during a Nor’easter. California is a culture of wheels. I’d never been to a campus before that has four traffic lanes for non-motorized travel: two bike lanes going opposite directions, a skateboard lane, and the humble pedestrian walkway. There are so many skateboards here that the counter-culture has become conformist. Sorry, Bart, it’s true. And concern for the environment is palpable. Reclaimed rainwater feeds the lush plant life, every possible recycled item is sorted and sent to the correct facility, students bicycle instead of drive, smart cars are very evident for the two-wheel impaired, and almost nobody smokes. And as I ate my supper alone in the student union two separate groups of Christian students were having very vocal conversations about their faith. Free spirits not realizing that they’re trapped.

One conversation with a Native American specialist stayed with me. She spoke of how missionary work has damaged indigenous cultures irreparably. I listened in fascination as she told me about the local history. How an historic Spanish mission was publicly adorned with the skull of a murdered Native American and how it took years of persuading to get them to take it down, even in the late twentieth century. Across campus students are praying to Jesus for the courage to continue witnessing. In Newark, I suspect, a couple of guys are still laughing.

On a brief respite from my busy day of meetings, I walked the Lagoon (sorry, I can never see or say that word without thinking of Gilligan’s Island) Trail. Emphasizing the environmental features of this wetland habitat, the trail leads down to the ocean where flocks of pelicans and egrets fly overhead, unperturbed on the shores of the vast Pacific. In 1969 what had been to date the worst US waters oil spill took place from Platform A, still visible in the distance from the beach. My thoughts turn from Gilligan’s Island to Deepwater Horizon. My laughter to tears. The Lagoon Trail winds through the headland to a labyrinth. In today’s resurgence of interest in the labyrinth, it is viewed as a spiritual journey. Labyrinths appear in churches as early as the Roman Empire, but nobody knows what they mean. I silently stand beside the maze. What does it mean? Platform A leers from the ocean. Christian undergrads look to convert the world. And under the cross is not the skull of Adam, but that of an anonymous Native American. What does it mean?