Thursday, December 19, 2019

Spiraling Narratives and Labyrinth Thoughts

By Cheryl Oreglia

Have you ever walked a Labyrinth? It's an ancient spiritual practice that takes you on a circular path to the center of some symbolic heart, and back out again, hopefully transformed by the experience of quiet, thoughtful, annular movement.
“Show not what has been done, but what can be. How beautiful the world would be if there were a procedure for moving through labyrinths.” Umberto Eco
The labyrinth begins at the outer edge of a circular maze which draws the participant inward, they are not extravagant, or meandering, but smooth and direct, spinning one around and around until they find their center. It sounds like it would be a dizzying experience but it turns out to be a rather mystifying and unexpected journey.

Spirals are everywhere, on the tracery of our fingertips, in our DNA, the coiled tendril of a grapevine, a snails shell, a spiraling stairwell, or monstrous hurricane, how the Earth orbits the Sun, not to mention the way water spirals down the drain.

It's interesting because this is also how my mind works, spinning a problem or story, drawing me deeper and deeper into a vortex of thought, until I'm completely lost in the minutiae of my theoretical, or if you will, theatrical ideas.

In terms of writing it seems our narratives follow this same sort of spiraling pattern. The reader starts at the edge of a story, moving in towards some magnetizing crescendo, before being released to circle back out of the tale, hopefully spellbound, maybe even transformed if you will, by a riveting plot, passionate love affair, or some sort of horrific tale.

A spiraling narrative could be drawing the reader slowly into the characters soul, or backwards into the past, upwards towards the future. Sometimes it's difficult to write yourself out of a spiraling tale, just as difficult as it is to spin my thoughts in a new direction, but the point being there is a purposeful maneuver at the pinnacle of the narrative, which sends one back the way they came, only altered in some profound way.

At the present moment I feel as if I'm spiraling out of control, propelled into this mysterious labyrinth with the onset of Advent, and then I run like a lunatic around and around as the celebratory birth of Christ spins into focus. I'm being drawn towards some sort of unachievable standard, only to be spit out come January, into the harsh realities of debt, decorations, and department store returns. Have I been saved? Has anyone?
“The difficulty in dealing with a maze or labyrinth lies not so much in navigating the convolutions to find the exit but in not entering the damn thing in the first place. Or, at least not yet again. As a creature of free will, do not be tempted into futility.” Vera Nazarian
This year I took an intentional pause not only in the movement of my mind, but the motion of my memories of Christmas past, and I stood still for an entire weekend doing exactly what I wanted, which was to sit in my pajamas for the better part of the day, writing, and devouring enormous amounts of coffee. I accomplished absolutely nothing between sunrise and sunset except finding my center and contemplating my return.

There is a central story line that goes with this annual nativity story, with several mini stories circling the larger one, they all fit into a familiar narrative which offers all new life, joyful hope, and illumination. As the days grow longer and the darkness recedes I'm trying to slow down, to make it all last, to restore my sense of wonder and awe. When I lose sight of that which is really important I'm reminded to pause in the midst of chaos, and allow myself to be transformed by quiet, thoughtful, annular movements.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

When I'm not writing for Across the Board, I'm Living in the Gap, drop by anytime.

Have you ever been corralled into a labyrinth of nonsense?

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