I enjoy walking labyrinths. Labyrinths are maze-like structures that have been used as spiritual tools for centuries. There are many of them around, and I am in the habit of trying to visit a lot of them. For more information about labyrinths, check out The Labyrinth Society. Find where labyrinths are in your area at the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator.
It’s been over a year since I walked a labyrinth. Over a year since I created a blog post about a labyrinth. Over a year since I explored spirituality in this time-honored way. It’s been a hell of a year, of course. But I found it so hard to get myself moving. So hard to get myself to do anything. Depression has been my constant companion throughout the pandemic, and it’s not getting any better, honestly.
But I’m on vacation this week, which gave me enough impetus to get up and travel to a labyrinth. A few, actually. It was good, really good, to get back into this.
The first labyrinth I went to was at an Episcopal Church, accessible via a metal archway.
I then had to duck under the branches and leaves of a tree to approach the labyrinth. It felt like bowing, a gesture I’ve taken to doing anyway when beginning and ending a labyrinth.
The labyrinth itself was a rather common type I’d walked before many times: Seven-circuit classical design, paths made of crushed stone, and walls of random rocks that migth have been found in the immediate area. Common doesn’t mean bad, though — this was a beautiful example, and I was excited to walk it.
The question I asked as I entered was a pretty heavy one: Do I have anything worth living for? Is there any reason not to end my life now? I’ve been dwelling on existential thoughts of late, feeling like there’s no purpose to my life. The truth is, I spend most of my life being “passively suicidal.” What that means is that I’m not in any active way seeking to end my life. I don’t need to be hospitalized. I’m not a danger to myself. However, I’m continually faced with the feeling that my life is meaningless, that life itself is meaningless. While I won’t go to great lengths to end my life, right now I also wouldn’t go to great lengths to save it if it came to that.
So with that in mind, I entered the labyrinth. As I walked, I thought about the monstrosity in our world, the monstrosity of hatred and anger and dehumanization that is in our world, that sometimes is all I can see in our world. The racism, the sexism, the cruelty, the self-righteousness, the callousness, the pettiness, the evil that’s all around us, and if I’m honest, runs through us as well. Sometimes I wonder why I would want to live in a world with this.
I thought about all the ways I distract myself from the monstrosity. I play videogames, I do word puzzles, I watch television, I read nonsense, I talk with others about chit-chat stuff. I wondered: is walking labyrinths just another distraction? Is this all just a way for me to try to avoid the monstrosity?
I thought about meaning. I wondered if there is really any meaning to find in life, or if the existentialists are right, that meaning is something I have to make. That was intended to be such an empowering thing, I think that we all have the ability to make our own meaning in the face of meaninglessness. But if that’s the case, then right now, I find I just don’t want to.
Then I thought about how I ascribe meaning to the labyrinth. Every single time I enter a labyrinth, I come out again with something; I come out again with some meaning. I always have complete faith in the labyrinth, that somehow I will receive something of worth. I don’t know know what it will be, and it doesn’t always last for long, but there’s always something. And the reason for that must be because I know it will be there.
So — could a reason to live be in order to find the meaning in the next labyrinth? Maybe. I’m not convinced of that, but maybe.
Or maybe — maybe — this doesn’t answer my original question (“live or die?”), but rather offers a reflection on what may as well be the next one (“since I live, then what?”). If all of life is meaningless, then there’s really no more reason to die than to live. So maybe I can simply accept the axiom that I am alive, and then figure out what to do from there. And maybe, the labyrinth itself is part of the answer.
This wasn’t the only labyrinth I walked that day, which was good. I had more to work on. More on that one in the next post.