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While Encyclopædia Britannica does not note any difference between labyrinth and maze, “Labyrinth, also called maze, system of intricate passageways and blind alleys. ‘Labyrinth’ was the name given by the ancient Greeks and Romans to buildings, entirely or partly subterranean, containing a number of chambers and passages that rendered egress difficult. Later, especially from the European Renaissance onward, the labyrinth or maze occurred in formal gardens, consisting of intricate paths separated by high hedges. . . . In gardening, a labyrinth or maze means an intricate network of pathways enclosed by hedges of which it is difficult to find the centre or exit,” according to Wikipedia, “In English, the term labyrinth_is generally synonymous with _maze. As a result of the long history of unicursal representation of the mythological labyrinth, however, many contemporary scholars and enthusiasts observe a distinction between the two. In this specialized usage maze refers to a complex branching multicursal puzzle with choices of path and direction, while a unicursal labyrinth has only a single path to the center. A labyrinth in this sense has an unambiguous route to the center and back and is not difficult to navigate.” While, unlike Encyclopædia Britannica, I differentiate between a maze and a labyrinth, the distinction between the two is different in my books from the one in Wikipedia: I reserve “maze” for worldly configurations and “labyrinth” for unworldly natural spaces and times—for me, both of the aforementioned structures in Wikipedia’s “Labyrinth” entry are mazes. If we are just living beings, one type of animal, then we would be exclusively in the natural world, and in the natural world while there can be and are mazes, there isn’t, indeed cannot be a labyrinth (in years to come, it is likely that researchers would be able to assert, based on human neuroimaging, that a certain mortal is experiencing being lost in a labyrinth, but that does not mean that the labyrinth itself is then part of nature and within the purview of science). It is not by crossing some natural threshold, for example, a river, or some man-made threshold, for example, a gate, that you will reach a labyrinth. You are not going to reach the labyrinth by airplane or train or car—except if the airplane or train or car crashes and you die.

Jalal Toufic

Added by Bryce Wilner
Updated 16 days ago

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