Thinking about “Labyrinths” while searching for Hung Lu Meng–Philip Petrunak

Thinking about “Labyrinths” while searching for Hung Lu Meng

When we hear the term “labyrinth,” what do we think of? Personally, I am bombarded immediately by the image of a maze. An October corn maze of multiple paths leading to a center; confusion leading to a moment of clarity and understanding. In considering my own exploration of a curious reference to a novel in “The Garden of the Forking Paths,” titled Hung Lu Meng, I wonder why I chose such a sourcing blog path for myself. Hung Lu Meng returns a fairly limited amount of useful results on Google in comparison to the term “labyrinth” as a sourcing blog concept for example. “Labyrinth” returns pages and pages of results ranging from movie and song titles to band names and websites but I consciously choose the page that sounds most interesting and straightforward rather than academic or scholarly. The website is headed, “The Labyrinth: Walking Your Spiritual Journey,” which strikes me initially as some kind of cult or branch of Scientology but ends up providing some useful arguments in thinking about a labyrinth.

A labyrinth is not a maze. A maze is like a puzzle to be solved. It has twists, turns, and blind alleys. It is a left brain task that requires logical, sequential, analytical activity to find the correct path into the maze and out. A labyrinth has only one path. It is unicursal. The way in is the way out. There are no blind alleys. The path leads you on a circuitous path to the center and out again.

This reminds me of Benjy’s feelings about Borges and the “Library of Babel” as being something almost godly or spiritual. This website argues that a labyrinth is a metaphor for inner search rather than one of an exploration of the environment around us.  “The Labyrinth represents a journey to our own center and back again out into the world.  We can walk it. It is a metaphor for life’s journey. It is a symbol that creates a sacred space and place and takes us out of our ego to ‘That Which Is Within.’” This description makes me wonder. If we think of life as a series of multiple paths and choices then how does the Labyrinth, with only one path in and out, really act as a metaphor for “life’s journey?” The question is perplexing to me, but the website’s solution seems to rely again on spirituality. “With a maze many choices must be made and an active mind is needed to solve the problem of finding the center. With a labyrinth there is only one choice to be made. The choice is to enter or not…The choice is whether or not to walk a spiritual path”

I don’t quite know what to make of all of this yet, nor do I know for sure that the path that has led me to this website and this discussion of “labyrinths” as useful. However, the contrast of labyrinths as something other than a maze, puzzle, or game is something to think about while grappling with Borges as well as Hopscotch and hypertext. So, briefly, I will divert from what must have been my inevitable, spiritual, path of searching “labyrinths” in order to touch upon my sourcing post claim Hung Lu Meng.

According to Wikipedia, Hung Lu Meng is also known as the “Dream of the Red Chamber” or the “Story of the Stone.” It is interesting to note that the most prevalent returns for the novel on Google analyze it only through the lens of Borges and his use of it as a reference in “The Garden of Forking Paths.” So, I’ll leave you with this excerpt from “A Labyrinth of symbols exploring the “Garden of Forking Paths’,” and some things to think over;

The Hung Lu Meng is an enormous Chinese novel from the 18th century, and its story sounds as if it were taken from a Borges fiction. It circulated first in manuscript copies containing eighty chapters, but without an ending. When at last it was printed, it appeared with an additional forty chapters added, apparently by another author, although the editor who published it insisted that he had not written them, and was only acting as editor. To make matters worse, in the first chapter the author, Cao Xuequin, also claims that the work is not his, and that he is only one of many editors who have worked with the text.

Please leave thoughts!


~ by philippetrunak on February 1, 2010.

One Response to “Thinking about “Labyrinths” while searching for Hung Lu Meng–Philip Petrunak”

  1. Well it seems like there’s a divergence of thoughts between this spiritual labyrinth and the…(meta?)physical one of the living world. The spiritualists are assuming the labyrinth is something you can consciously choose to go in or out of–a journey you can either take or pass up (in favor of what, I would like to know…). Borges, on the other hand is thinking of life as the labyrinth and the only ways in or out are birth and death. For him, the labyrinth is a universal movement–thousands and thousands of labyrinths all functioning on top of each other, or one all-encompassing one (of similar nature to the library I would guess). This is spiritual in its own right, I suppose, but less bound than the site’s usage of the metaphor.

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