Life is a journey. Our personal, professional, family, religious, political, spiritual, national, or global life can be compared to a labyrinth. A labyrinth is a serpentine path that slowly moves from the outside to the inside, but only after many roundabout twists and indirect deviations.
As a metaphor for life, the labyrinth describes a journey into the unknown. At birth, we begin this journey into the unknown. There is no predictability about tomorrow. What will become of our family? Who will be our friends? Where will we live? In what kind of world will we live? What will be the joys and agonies of tomorrow? The labyrinth of life’s journey can be characterized by the acronym VUCA – Vulnerability/Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.
I believe we are born with the capacity to embark on an earthly labyrinth journey as the pathway to the Great Unknown – God. But, guess what? Our society and family programme us to perceive life as a linear movement that has a beginning and an end, contrary to the labyrinth model.
Imagine a game of tug-o-war. There are two sides.
- Side One consists of our intrinsic capacity for labyrinth or unknown journey.
- Side Two entails the opposite that says, “No. Life is a smooth highway.
Simply work hard, do the necessary investment and you will reap the reward of the ideal profession, relationships, and status, and live happily ever after.” These two concepts of life are at war within us – a tug-o-war.
What’s the end result?
When life fails to deliver what is promised, we become trapped into a spiral of mental stress and illness, emotional distress, social conflicts and despondency. We sometimes ask “Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does God allow all these natural disasters and calamities?”
How do we build our capacity to respond to the twists and turns, the agonies and joys, the valleys and hilltops, the expected and unexpected, and the unknowns of human life? There’s a religious sister of the Order of St. Joseph of Cluny, Sr. Paula. Years ago she composed a calypso entitled “Life’s A Journey.”
The chorus is as follows:
Life is a journey a journey I say
Life is a journey by night and by day and by day
cause sometimes you up up, up,
Sometimes you down down, down
Sometimes you turning, turning, all around
And sometimes you find yourself flat out on the ground
Cause life is a journey the whole of life long.
Let’s use the journey motif as a realistic teaching model. That’s the model I am now using in all aspects of my life. I am shifting away from the linear motif to the labyrinth motif. Now, I am at peace. Why? Life’s journey is not about “me” alone arriving at a destination. It’s about a community of persons on a journey. Helping each other to negotiate the twists and turns. Whenever there is a perceived end, it signals a new beginning.