Mazes & labyrinths

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I read A Whole New Mind by Dan Pink in 2010, and shortly thereafter I had a chance to hear him speak in a webinar on his new book Drive.  Both works continue to inform my thinking.  During the holidays, I was talking with my sister and my father about the book Who Moved My Cheese? and I was expressing my frustration with the book and the metaphor.  Our family discussion reminded me of a passage from Pink’s first book, A Whole New Mind:

I don’t disagree with the message of Who Moved My Cheese? but I do take issue with the metaphor.  In the Conceptual Age, Asia and automation may be constantly moving our cheese, so to speak.  But in an age of abundance, we’re no longer in a maze.  Today the more appropriate metaphor for our times is the labyrinth.

Mazes and labyrinths are often lumped together in the popular imagination, but they differ in important ways.  A maze is a series of compartmentalized and confusing paths, most of which lead to dead ends.  When you enter, your objective is to escape – as quickly as  you can.  A labyrinth is a spiral walking course.  When you enter, your goal is to follow the path to the center, stop, turn around, and walk back out – all at whatever pace you choose.  Mazes are analytic puzzles to be solved; labyrinths are a form of moving meditation.  Mazes can be disorienting; labyrinths can be centering.  You can get lost in a maze; you can lose yourself in a labyrinth.  Mazes engage the left brain; labyrinths free the right brain.

Pink goes on to talk about the number of labyrinths in the United States – over 4000 of them, and he specifically mentioned the ones at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

Some of you may know that my undergraduate degree is in Religion.  Recently I have been re-reading some of the work that most inspired me, as well as thinking about the role that I would like yoga and meditation to play in my life in the future.  At the time I was reading the book, I was headed out to the Creative Good UX Councils, and so I put a visit to Grace Cathedral on my list of possible things to do while I was there.  Unfortunately, my time in the Bay Area ended up being very compressed, and I didn’t make it to the cathedral.  But one night walking home from dinner with some other Council members, I came across these markings on the sidewalk:

Amazing what comes my way when I keep myself open to possibility, isn’t it?  Here’s hoping that the new year is full of inspiration and possibility for you and me both.


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