Davenport in The Geography of the Imagination writes that one can find one's way out of the labyrinth only after ones has learned the harmony of its ways. Before that, it is political. When it is political, it has blind alleys.
Last week, I decided "politics" can mean "choosing to employ one's friends" - who may include those with a similar vision. In contrast to that is the unbiased attitude of enjoying an idea without agreeing with it: recognising genius; allowing it to inspire one's own creative thought.
Once upon a time, because I mentioned a religion, one of my favourite letter-writing friends took this, along with my statement that neither religion nor atheism belong on billboards, to mean that I am a zealot. I found that political, because I felt that in his statement, I had been kidnapped and forced into an "enemy camp". But I had never wanted war, also, the child does not like being called names. So, I ended our correspondence, instead of having the wit to continue it, in hope.
The original labyrinth was political. It had blind alleys and a charging minotaur. It was scary and oppressive. But, Davenport writes, when seen from the right perspective, its architecture transforms from the labyrinth to the honeycomb. The honeycomb is nourishing: it is inspiration and hope.
I think that in many things, we are taught to be political. Friends are often chosen for who, not what, they are. A. Clutton-Brock writes of this in his essay "On Friendship", which I regret assigning in class: too many students vociferously denied that egotism can sneak into "friendship".
There are many blind alleys. And I guess it takes the beginnings of wisdom to find a harmonious place for opposition. In this respect, I often think of the zen aesthetic: only the desired object is focused on; all that does not resonate disappears into the empty space.
Reaching dynamic, not oppressive, space is a labour of love. It was Ariadne's string of love that helped Theseus find his way out. What an important myth - to forget it, Davenport writes, leads man to "a maze-like pattern full of sudden surprised and tragic blind alleys. A man searching for a way out, or attempting to plot the confusion, would rarely agree with, or even know about, other men on a similar search." He writes that this was characteristic of the 20th century.
I have experienced not agreeing with a man "on a similar search". But I think we all know, deep down, just how many roads lead to Rome. I wrote yesterday of Lapham's talk: he also explains that our current partisan mentality can be seen in opposite political views no longer being printed side-by-side. One may wish to learn how to converse again. But maybe, as Lapham suggests, poetry will help us find our way out of the dark.