Letters from the Borderlands

Letters from the Borderlands
Vanessa Compton PhD
(A version of this article appears in The Labyrinth Society’s Labyrinth Pathways 11, Autumn 2017)

Way back in early spring of 2017, The Labyrinth Society Communications Director asked if I
would step in and edit the upcoming issue of the Quarterly E-newsletter. As former Director
for Publications, I thought it would be a straightforward assignment, and I was happy to
oblige. Then the list of articles-in-progress arrived. At the top was the announcement for the
2017 Gathering, Honoring the Labyrinth Environment: Co-Creating with Nature, to be held at
Island Wood, an environmental education center on Bainbridge Island, across Puget Sound
from Seattle, Washington.

Site and theme were perfectly harmonised, the guest speakers masters at their respective
building practices, the pre- and post-gathering activities unique and worthwhile, the
concurrent workshop schedule once again offering participants an abundance of learning
opportunities (I’d been on the Workshop Selection Committee—a role I highly recommend).
It brought me up short, then, to realise that this magical time-out-of-time with a beloved, farflung
tribe of like-minded labyrinth makers and keepers, connectors and fellow-seekers, dear
special friends old and new, gathered together ever so briefly once again, would take place
on the far side of a line which, for ethical reasons that mattered to me as a Canadian, I did
not want, even then, to cross.

Cutline IV

by Andreas Rutkauskas, Courtesy of the artist.

The US had elected its 45th president the previous November. A controversial figure, his
actions in the first three months of the new administration had been, to say the least,
disconcerting. Immigration was a particular focus, with whole classes and nations of people
placed on restricted lists or banned altogether, along with promises to wall off the southern
border. Warnings of unwarranted cellphone and social media searches circulated, with news
of Canadian school groups cancelling field trips for fear of being held or turned back at the
border. Besides my own potential problems, thanks to partisan Facebook friends and
participation in the sedate protests on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the suddenness of
presidential policy announcements conveyed in tweet form evoked an unease about what
was happening in the US, and whether it was wise or desirable, if one had a choice, to go
there at all.

I wondered if it was just me, or whether others felt this way. In a personal letter outlining both
my dilemma as an international member and the curiosity it aroused about the labyrinth with
respect to borders, boundaries, and dividing lines, I invited readers to respond:

I am wondering how many of TLS’ international members are in a similar position to
mine, and what you think about that. I’m reminded of Jeff Saward’s eNews interview
last year (The History Issue, February 2016) where he talks about visiting labyrinths
behind the Iron Curtain, and that these labyrinths go on regardless of history, but our
knowledge of them is subject to that history. Our practice certainly is.

The topic of Borders is, like labyrinths, full of access points:

● the labyrinth path divides sacred space from mundane surroundings,
protecting walkers as they go inward, yet its purpose (one of them) is to bring
us into communion with one another, encompassing our differences.

● If you think of borders as boundaries, and that establishing them is
considered a sign of a healthy individual in relationship, then what can we say
about international boundaries, and Borders?

● Labyrinths are used in Restorative Justice practice and in prisons; is there
something to be said about the Labyrinth as a symbol of justice? That it
represents an aesthetic of justice? (at least, restorative justice, which keeps
the perpetrator within the community)

Then I sent it out to the entire TLS mailing list, and thought more about these questions
while I waited for a response.

Labyrinths as Symbols

The situation I had described felt unprecedented and unclear, murky even. The questions at
the outset of my inquiry seemed to blunder into thickets of unexamined assumptions and
loyalties, my own and others, at the personal level and the collective. It felt then, and more
so now as I write this in August 2017, that our understanding of ourselves as citizens, and
beyond that, as a species, was dissolving into a chaos of our own making, but beyond our
control. As labyrinth practitioners, we trust our tool and hone our skills. We’d inherited the
labyrinth without any instructions, and done our best, but apparently there was further to go.
Was it a strong enough vessel? More to the point, were we wise enough navigators? Was
there something we were missing? Would its pattern let us know how to proceed? Could the
labyrinth help us out? In time?

The labyrinth is an ancient and mysterious symbol, with no fixed origin to limit its purpose or
define its meaning, its characteristic pattern pointing towards something beyond itself,
something immaterial or abstract. Jung made the useful distinction between natural
symbols—the archaic forms that instinct takes in the universal unconscious, archetypes such
as the Great Mother, the Quest, the Circle—and cultural symbols, collective images that are
consciously developed to represent an eternal truth, recognizable in the emotional links they
evoke to individual and social identity. Symbols function as metaphor (from Greek, “to carry
over”) by grounding an individual’s understanding in the familiar, while moving the focus
though the imagination into the unknown. Symbols allow the literal to become figurative: the
path becomes The Path. A hike becomes a Pilgrimage (or, on the other hand, the Camino
devolves into a wine tour, when misinterpreted by unlike-minded friends). The labyrinth is
both a natural and cultural symbol, designed and sustained by humans over millennia,
ancient and continually renewed, feared and revered, obscure of origin and, in contemporary
practice, intended for a variety of purposes: healing architecture, relational art installation,
liminoid gathering place, walking meditation, personal sounding board.1

The labyrinth pattern circumscribes a perimeter, with an opening for a path which starts at
the outside and goes circuitously through the entire interior space to the center. It can be as
simple as two lines artfully scribbled—or two ropes precisely tossed—across each other to
give an arrangement of three circuits. Without the path’s defining boundaries, there is no
labyrinth. It feels contained, but it is not impermeable. There is no barrier to breach; the
outside world and those of its inhabitants who choose this route come flowing in through the
gap into the space between the lines, eddying back and forth between quadrants before
swirling into the innermost circle and back out again, like air into the lungs, or discourse
itself.

The images of flow, fluidity, energy lines, and cyclical rhythms of birth, death, and rebirth
resonate with the labyrinth experience, whose physicality provides one side of the
metaphor’s equation. Tom Vetter in a TLS Global post on World Labyrinth Day 2017,
described walking a labyrinth with others as “an umbilical cord, a living connection to our
Source. What appears as separation between the entrance of a labyrinth and the Center is
an illusion, for the path connects you! When a line appears to separate you from someone
on an adjacent path, it is an optical illusion.” French geometer Pierre Rosenthiel called it “the
geometry of welcome,” though to truly understand it, he said, “there’s nothing to be done but
to throw oneself bodily into the …unpredictable volutes.”2

 

2018-Compton-2

1. Compton, V.J. “Facilitating the labyrinth: ritual process and relational aesthetic.” Labyrinth Pathways 6
(2012)
2. Rosenstiehl compares the labyrinth to many things, especially as a metaphor of interdisciplinary
research. Most unexpected, perhaps, is the comparison, in “Les Mots du Labyrinthe,” to the grappling
hook in Andrei Tarovski’s The Stalker, thrown each time in a new direction across levels of forbidden
territory. https://labyrinthed.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/the-labyrinthology-of-pierre-rosenstiehl.pdf

Where Does Aesthetics Get You?

Any “labyrinth” seeking Google researcher back in the day will recall the then numerous
entries concerning the anatomy of the inner ear, whose structures are designed for both
hearing and balance. Rebecca Solnit, in her discussion of artist Eliń Hansdóttir’s Path, a
labyrinth installed in Iceland’s National Gallery, 3
makes a connection between the two meanings that profoundly illuminates the relationships supported in both kinds of labyrinth:

The name suggests that if the labyrinth is the passage through which sound enters
the mind, then we ourselves bodily enter labyrinths as though we were sounds on the
way to being heard by some great unknown presence. To walk this path is to be
heard, and to be heard is a great desire of the majority of us, but to be heard by
whom, by what? …

To hear is to let the sound wander all the way through the labyrinth of your ear; to
listen is to travel the other way to meet it. It’s not passive but active, this listening. It’s
as though you retell each story, translate it into the language particular to you, fit it
into your cosmology so you can understand and respond, and thereby it becomes
part of you. The word empathy originally meant feeling into, and to empathize is to
reach out to meet the data that comes through the labyrinths of the senses.
Territories…

Empathy means that you travel out of yourself a little or expand. Recognizing the
reality of another’s existence is the imaginative leap that is the birth of empathy, a
word invented by Edward Titchener, a psychologist interested in visual art…
It was a translation of the German word Einfuhlung, or feeling into, as though the
feeling itself reached out.… The root word is path, from the Greek word for passion
or suffering, from which we also derive pathos and pathology and sympathy. It’s a
coincidence that empathy is built from a homonym for the Old English path, as in a
trail. Or a dark labyrinth named Path. Empathy is a journey you travel, if you pay
attention, if you care, if you desire to do so… Suffering far away reaches you through
art, through images, recordings, and narratives; the information travels toward you
and you meet it halfway, if you meet it. (in The Faraway Nearby)

In a marvelous chapter on the Labyrinth in her earlier book, Wanderlust: A History of
Walking, Solnit explains the mechanics of the labyrinth’s metaphor, “the boundaries of the
real and the represented” (p. 70), to clarify the sense of actively listening and awareness of
response that labyrinth walkers report:

It was breathtaking to realize that in the labyrinth, metaphors and meanings could be
conveyed spatially. Poet Marianne Moore famously wrote of “real toads in imaginary
gardens,” and the labyrinth offers us the possibility of being real creatures in symbolic
space. Children’s books …full of characters …crossing over to the other side …where
the boundaries between the real and the represented were not particularly
fixed…[The] real is in this context nothing more or less than what we inhabit bodily. A
labyrinth is a symbolic journey…but it is a map we can really walk on, blurring the
difference between map and world… Sometimes the map is the territory.

This is the labyrinth walking experience as a form of empathy, a reaching out “to meet the
data that comes … through the senses.” That impulse to reach out is an aesthetic response,

3 Rebecca Solnit, “The Art of Not Knowing Where You Are.” Retrieved 8/25/2017.
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175711/tomgram%3A_rebecca_solnit%2C_the_art_of_not_knowing
_where_you_are/

a sense-based felt response, to encountering Beauty (“Aesthetic” meaning here not “style or
genre” but rather sense perception itself; its antonym would be “anaesthetic,” a medical
intervention so as to feel nothing). Philosopher Elaine Scarry describes it in Beauty and
Being Just4 (p. 31) as:

the way beautiful things have a forward momentum, the way they incite the desire to
bring new things into the world: infants, epics, sonnets, drawings, dances, laws,
philosophic dialogues, theological tracts. But we soon found ourselves also turning
backward, for the beautiful faces and songs that lift us forward onto new ground keep
calling out to us as well, inciting us to rediscover and recover them in whatever new
thing gets made.

The labyrinth, the familiar Classical and Chartres patterns, and with some discernment, the
myriad new ones offered by contemporary designers and builders, owe much of their power
to Aquinas’s famous threefold division of beauty into integrity, proportion, and claritas. We all
know that involuntary intake of breath, the hushed “That’s beautiful!” at the sight of a
carefully executed labyrinth, whether stone, paint, or turf, in a gracious setting. Facilitators
augment these settings and events with music, dance, ritual, candlelight, flowers, and art
materials to enhance the sensorium and the expressive response. Participants report feeling
more grounded, balanced, and indeed, clear and luminous, like a stained glass window.

Scarry goes further:

Attention is involuntarily given to the beautiful person or thing; then, this quality of
heightened attention is voluntarily extended out to other persons or things. It is as
though beautiful things have been placed here and there throughout the world to
serve as small wake-up calls to perception, spurring lapsed alertness back to its most
acute level. (p.55)

She refers to “Plato’s requirement that we move from ‘eros,’ in which we are seized by the
beauty of one person [or thing], to ‘caritas,’ in which our care is extended to all people” as a
“moral urgency to move from the particular to the universal” making “the connection between
beauty as ‘fairness’ and justice as ‘fairness,’ using the widely accepted definition by John
Rawls of fairness as a ‘symmetry of everyone’s relations to each other’” (p. 63) “[B]eauty
assists us in getting to justice ‘analogically, by what they share: balance and the weighing of
both sides.’” (p.64)

Beauty’s effect on the viewer is one of “radical decentering,” wrote Simone Weil, requiring us
“to give up our imaginary position as the center … A transformation then takes place at the
very roots of our sensibility, in our immediate reception of sense impressions and
psychological impressions.” In a passage about a bird taking flight that might have been
written for labyrinth walkers, Scarry says “When we come upon beautiful things … they lift us
(as though by the air currents of someone else’s sweeping), letting the ground rotate
beneath us several inches, so that when we land, we find we are standing in a different
relation to the world than we were a moment before.”(p. 77)

Philosopher Iris Murdoch called this process “unselfing,” saying that “anything which alters
consciousness in the direction of unselfishness, objectivity and realism is to be connected
with virtue,” and the most “obvious thing in our surroundings which is an occasion for
‘unselfing’ … is what is popularly called beauty.” Unselfing is desirable because “some more
capacious mental act is possible: all the space formerly in the service of protecting,

4.Scarry, E. Beauty and Being Just. The Tanner Lectures on Human Values. Delivered at Yale
University March 25 and 26, 1998. Retrieved 9/22/2017 from
/blogs.aalto.fi/researchinart/files/2012/10/scarryBEAUTY.pdf

guarding, advancing the self (or its ‘prestige’) is now free to be in the service of something
else.” (p.78) Scarry argues that the creative responses to beauty, perpetuating what already
exists, and bringing into being the not yet manifest, has equivalences in the realm of justice,
which “since the time of Socrates, has been known as the ‘duty to justice’ argument: we
have a duty, says Rawls, ‘to support’ just arrangements where they already exist and to help
bring them into being where they are ‘not yet established.’” (p.79-80)

Call and Response

Back at my desk, the letters arrived from across the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and
Europe: definitions, etymology, stories of place, land, hearts, pictures, poems, and songs,
sorrow, bewilderment, defiance, and longing. Most frequently expressed was how grateful
people were to be invited to speak and even more to be heard, not only within their
immediate circle but in their organisations, associations, communities and beyond. They
passionately want to bring the labyrinth’s lessons to our current tumultuous shared reality.

To be sure, there was also aversion among a minority of letter writers. The labyrinth, for
some, is a private affair; personal in its scope. To speak of problematized international
borders and labyrinths in the same breath is taboo.
● (US) “It is unfortunate you let your fears, prejudices, and media bias keep you
trapped in Canada. I would hope that. Labyrinth enthusiast would be more global…
You infect a symbol of strength, freedom, and opportunities Using your bully pulpit
regarding your small minded view.”
● (CA) “It feels uncomfortable to me to politicize any aspect of our work or
endeavours… I may share some of your concerns but I don’t think it’s wise to create
divisiveness or a perspective stance within The Labyrinth Society. Consider your
audience, many may be Republican Americans, some with very conservative and
fundamentalist beliefs…how to keep conversations open, questions generative…”
which is an interesting question that I cannot answer. How do conversations unfold, without
differing perspectives? Do we actually know that many TLS members are conservative
Republicans with fundamentalist beliefs? Should we silence ourselves in order to leave this
group untroubled by unfamiliar ideas? Are there places the labyrinth should never go?
Should it cover its inclusive welcoming face? Who decides? One writer wondered, in a
personal email, whether there were people he would “not want to walk with.”

For some, American exceptionalism is paramount and unquestioned.
● (US) “we don’t have borders to cross to get to the Gathering this year and so it is a
moot point for us. And as far as I can tell, we have no problem flying anywhere we
want to.”
In perfect synchrony, another writer addressed this very issue:
● (US) “as artistic director of the Texas Storytelling Festival this past year …[I] ran into
a similar situation. One of our storytellers (an immigrant in state) chose not to come
and share their story because they feared consequences in their travel. The
organization president felt it was a political stand against the current administration, I
felt it was genuine fear and real concern.”

A couple of writers took on the origins of the word and concept of border, bringing forward
strikingly different meanings.
● (US) “I consulted the American Dictionary of Indo-European word roots. I always find
it a fascinating study into the deep meaning of words. In this case, border originates
in ‘berdh-‘ meaning to cut. Which makes it different from ‘divide’ or ‘separate’ which
seem to indicate a classification of some sort. It seems to have much more finality to
it, even violence perhaps. ‘Mine, not yours’ with ‘no trespassing’ signs abounding. In
this regard it’s related to the Latin ‘forfex’, a pair of scissors. The most endearing
aspect of the labyrinth to me is its tolerance, openness to creativity, to adaptability,
the lack of rules, that no one owns it, there is no rule book which, by definition
establishes borders between right and wrong, us and them. It has been proven time
and again that we are a healthier world with fewer borders, more inclusiveness, more
shared knowledge, compassion, and resources. Community trumps territory every
time.”
● (CA) “The etymology of the word ‘border’ has to do with the Old French ‘bordure’
‘seam, or edge of a shield.’ I think of it ideally as a meeting place, maybe because
words like border, margin, seam and edge are all words connected with quilting, a
practice that often brings together many different colours, materials and textures to
form something larger which is composed of infinite variety. But that isn’t how things
feel at the Canada/US border these days. It seems frightening and divisive and the
US does not feel at all like the wonderful place it once was.”

Several writers explored the question of borders and boundaries, teasing out subtleties from
personal experience and observation.
● (US) “Borders can define us and limit us, if we choose. Borders can create division or
we can reach across the border to hold a hand, make contact, begin a conversation.
Some people will choose to walk the prescribed path of the labyrinth, carefully
staying within the borders as their steps travel inward to outward. A cancer survivor
might choose to playfully cross the paths’ borders in spirited dance steps.
Borders can raise the challenge of who is in, who is out, and how will you be received
crossing a border.”
● (US) “I’ve always viewed the labyrinth as establishing a boundary for going into the
center and protecting and supporting my inner journey. But it never ended there. It
was always a turning from that center out to the world as I retraced my steps, where
those beliefs and conditioned cultural responses that separate us as human beings
have softened by my journey to the center—and I return seeing no boundaries
between us.”
● (US) “When I read your thought-provoking letter, I instantly gravitated toward your
second point comparing personal boundaries in relationships to international borders
and boundaries. Just briefly, I would say the difference in the two is whether these
boundaries are consensual. In relationships, if the boundaries are not consensual, it
has been my experience that they don’t work. One could say the same thing about
international boundaries. For example the ever moving border/boundary between
Israel and Palestine. There’s also the issue of how international boundaries became
defined. Often times they were arbitrarily established after one of war or another.
International boundaries are territorial in nature as opposed to personal/psychological
when thinking of boundaries in relationships. Just doing some comparison and
contrast here.”

The illusion of fixity when trying to establish political barriers (resonating for me with the
etymological reference earlier to cutting and finality as opposed to classification) on mutable
markers concerned more than one writer.
● (US) “… like a border, the line of the equator is imaginary and, in fact, due to scientific
reasons, is actually not a fixed line. To me, borders are similar. They are drawn on
maps and sometimes marked on real land, but often changing (as when a river
marks a border or when treaties are signed and wars fought.)”

From this writer’s exploration, I came away with the understanding that barriers are imposed,
while boundaries are negotiable, and the intriguing idea that borders are places where we
find ourselves as individuals, not as collectives.
● (CA) “I recently got something else in my email about boundaries and barriers. I
guess it’s a very real topic these days. … What came through on that one was this….

Boundaries are proactive and barriers are hyper-active and defensive.
Boundaries are a response and barriers are a reaction.
Boundaries are free to choose
Barriers are not about freedom or choice
My thoughts……
Borders are, I think, the permeable difference between a boundary and a barrier. The
challenge, at this time is where we sit in this liminal space. Borders are often
considered the space between the countries, not here and not there. It is considered
a space where we are still free to choose a response or a reaction. It’s not a place we
are used to be being as a collective. We are usually there as individuals. We have a
choice to respond, or react given the time and space given to us. It is a labyrinth of
thought, outside of time and space and we must all walk it, alone if we are to come
together.”

Again synchronously, the space between countries, the neither here nor there, is shown to
be a living place, surrounded by barriers. This writer identified so strongly with the river that
she personified it in a poem.
● (US) “In regard to borders. I think of a border I lived next to for 6 months.
In 1982 at age 24, I lived in Israel where I was a volunteer at a kibbutz (farm), Kfar
Ruppin for 6 months. Kfar Ruppin was right on the border with Jordan. That is, if you
went beyond the fence of our community, you would come to a fence. Beyond the
fence was a minefield. Beyond the minefield was the River Jordan.
Beyond it, another minefield on the Jordanian side.
What I am thinking about is. I wonder, if the river could think and feel, how it would
have felt about fences and soldiers and minefields separating its banks? Separating
people? I would think this would feel very wrong to the river. Because the nature of a
river is to flow and move and to give without restriction. I may write a poem on this
theme. Thank you for inspiring this idea. Why so often do we humans including
political leaders put up mental minefields? Why do we hate? I just don’t get it.”

River
By Laurie Pollack

A river. It could be anywhere
in the world.
A river with two river banks.
All rivers have two banks.

Above each river bank
Is a minefield
Above each minefield is a
barbed wire fence.

Above each fence is a community
Two towns
Two groups of
People who will never
See each other
Never talk
Never laugh together
Never hug.
Separated.

River how do you feel about this?
A river’s nature is to move flow push freely.
River do you wish you could offer
Cleansing healing
River do you wish we could drink together
Jump into your waters together unafraid?

River please flood the fences,
the minefields
River please wash away anger
hatred ignorance mistrust
Wash away our old stories
that no longer serve
River please offer us your water
to drink together
And we will look into each other’s eyes
Like newborn children
River please birth us
into love once more
River dance your waters between
our two river banks

River please rise
And we will rise too.
Free.

Some letters contained extraordinarily observant accounts of walking the labyrinth with a
dilemma in mind, detailing their response with a precision that comes with mastery. Here
one sees the “unselfing” stage of aesthetic response that Scarry and Murdoch described:
● (US) “I am not traveling abroad for the very reasons that you are not traveling here.
Yes, there are feelings as if the borders have become entrapments. That the ease of
visiting far off places are inaccessible and the path before me has narrowed and
become confined. I feel as if the boundaries have become a maze and that I cannot
escape…
“I see the labyrinth before me. Maybe the journey to the center is complete and all
you need to do is walk out in any direction? Maybe the path before you becomes too
tight and the center beckons you to step over the lines and into its open space?
Maybe the lines are only a dance floor for you to twirl and move and bow and bend
with free expression? Maybe it is time to respect the quiet walking of others and
move with respect and rhythm with those who share your path? Without those lines
and boundaries there would be no definition of path, no journey to the center and
back, no delineation of sacred space. However, if we make the labyrinth into a
dogma of rules, then those boundaries tighten and there is no longer the many ways
to explore the path before you.
“Fear takes over. Fear of other. Fear of change. Fear of losing the beliefs that appear
to hold my world together. I stop. I breathe. I take just one step and breathe again.
One more step and all there is, is this moment of stillness. This place of being with
what is. I notice the breeze. I hear the construction across the street. Birds sing. I see
ant scurry across my path. I take another step and feel great movement within me. I
breathe again and rejoice that I am here. That these words can fall from my fingers
and I am left with enormous space within me and around me. And from this place…
all things are possible.”

Others looked to the self-imposed barriers to understanding, including conformity to an idea
of what being “adult” should look like, and even Western thought itself.
● (US) “When working with a group of elementary children with the labyrinth I
witnessed a beautiful interaction of those who walked between the lines, on the lines
and across the lines. They were all held in a place of safety, trust and connection.
We then discussed their experience and debriefed the walk. The children had been
focused and engaged and had had a delightful experience. They were energized,
curious and interested in creating their own labyrinths. The adults were challenged,
caught in their own minds by their own restrictions and by rules. This provided
interesting learning for all. What did the children still have that the adults had lost?”
● (UK) “binary [sacred/profane] gives you a dualistic either/or…. and quite often neither
answer seems to fit. The phases are ‘thesis’ and ‘anti-thesis’ leading to a ‘synthesis’.”

Another suggestion for escaping this unproductive conformity echoed David Abram’s idea of
becoming animal”:
● (US) “The center of a labyrinth is a place of refuge after a journey hither and yon.
One of my visitors who was grieving as she walked the labyrinth arrived at the
entrance to the spacious center of my equine labyrinth, Troy Ride, where I was
standing holding my tall white horse Blake. She said she was afraid to come in as
horses were unknown to her. I welcomed her in and showed her how to extend her
hand for him to smell her, learn about her, trust her, and thus ‘talk’ to Blake. In
response he nickered, dropped his head in acceptance. She learned to trust him,
feeling safe enough to weep into his mane and even pull a hair from his tail as
keepsake.
Why don’t we accept refugees into spacious US the way horses do into their labyrinth
and generously give them a tail-hair passport?”

I saw in the letters Scarry’s “forward momentum,” in the urge to create new ways of being,
while at the same time, in the expressions of loss and dismay, a recognition, a “discovering
and recovering” of earlier forms of beauty, and the desire to protect what remained from
further destruction. The pull of eros like an inward tide towards our beautiful candlelit, Taizéenchanted,
flower-strewn labyrinth walks gives way to a reflective turn and a flow of caritas
outward:

● (CH) “The Labyrinth might help us to find out of the ways we should not follow any
further, or help us to understand which way of life will guide us in confidence and
peace to keep the world in balance”
● (CA) “where do we all meet when no longer thinking from the physical earth learned
mindscapes of culture and politic….Where do our spirit energies fuse and become
one? Where is the source?”
● (UK) “Weapon enforced boundaries and selective entry criteria are a cruel contrast to
the open peaceful welcome a labyrinth permanently offers. As political language tries
to make division seem totally normal – expelling ‘the other’ from ‘our’ circle an actual
rational response so the perennial message of the labyrinth is a clarion call of silent
acceptance – no matter what. The shared journey gives us back our humanity, helps
shine a light on the obvious reality: what we have in common is so much more than
that which we don’t.”
● (US) “Perhaps we have taken our freedoms for granted. We engage and challenge
as we are able, crossing boundaries, taking ourselves out of our comfort zone. We
walk the labyrinth in search of solutions.”
● (UK) “The totally democratic access to the sacred that a labyrinth gives is probably
the best gift we can give the world right now…. It is such a fear-free ‘thing’ to be able
to offer for townscapes and temporary festivals and cuts through all that ‘civic
negativity’ as we re-learn how to live together.”
● (US) “Labyrinths provide a structure of safety, trust, and connection. We humans are
in the midst of a paradigm shift. The world is holding both a state of failure and hope
at the same time. This may not change in our lifetime. Hope is a foundation for
creativity. Yes, there are facts, site locations and history about the labyrinth that
make the study of the labyrinth interesting. Accessibility to labyrinths across borders,
perhaps the idea for a new outreach. My curiosity lies in what can we learn from the
labyrinth about ourselves and our community to be more present in the world.”

In the paradigm shift, our comfort zone becomes larger and more inclusive, a becominglabyrinth.
The labyrinth pattern provides a multisensory model and a robust practice for
confronting our inner barriers, the ones unwittingly projected onto others. Its walls test the
permeability of our boundaries. What is the power in borders that is greater than that in
labyrinths?

As a descendant of “old stock” and United Empire Loyalists on one side and a first
generation Canadian on the other,5
taking the steps towards Indigenous people requested
by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, embodied as best we can, I can say it is a
process learning to see with new eyes the light on old assumptions and beliefs. The beauty
of First Nations culture, resilient and 21st century inventive, finds me unselfed and inspired.
Why have war when there is haka and rugby, and maybe haka and hockey?

What would it be like to gather on Vancouver Island in BC and travel in a flotilla of war &
peace canoes with First Nations people down to Bainbridge Island, the old Suquamish tribal
summer camp? Or this, maybe even more doable:
● (US) “Here is what I would love to see and be part of. Somewhere along the border
between the US and Canada there is a forest or a farm or ranch where one can
straddle the border. Let’s build a labyrinth there with the center straddling both
countries and the path winding in and out of both as well.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.
Rumi

I am sure the idea of borders and boundaries will also make no sense in that place.
Let’s build it.”

5.My father’s family lived for generations in Stanstead QC, on either side of the border, depicted in
Cutline IV. http://www.andreasrutkauskas.com/stanstead-project/

More articles on Labyrinths by Vanessa Compton