Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Review: The Unending Mystery

The Unending Mystery
From The Unending Mystery, by David Willis McCullough:
Open quote 

Labyrinths are painted on the walls of ancient caves and carved onto Neolithic rock outcroppings. They appear in some of the oldest legends in lands as different as the Greek Isles and the American Southwest, but were also the stuff of myths even older than the stories as we now know them."

After the jump, my review.

Grade: C+

David Willis McCullough (not the better known David Gaub McCullough) tells you everything you ever wanted to know about labyrinths and, to a lesser extent, their more modern relative, mazes. Labyrinths play a part in Homeric legend, Roman home decoration and graffiti, and medieval cathedral design. Mazes have offered fun at least since William III had a hedge maze planted at Hampton Court, one that still delights tourists to this day. Each fall, corn mazes bring extra dollars to family farms across the country. And who can forget the hedge maze in the horror movie "The Shining," in which the ax-wielding Jack Nicholson chases his young son?

Before we go on, let's cover the semantics. According to aficionados, "a labyrinth is a single circuitous path that leads uninterrupted to a center, while a maze is a puzzle with many forks in the road that demand choices." If you are still with me, then this book might be for you. Different people who played parts in the history of labyrinths are discussed, but it's the labyrinth itself that is the main character here. The topic is light, the writing likewise.

McCullough devotes most pages to the classic labyrinth, considerably less time to hedge mazes (and their cousins, the turf mazes and corn mazes), and no time at all on paper and pencil puzzles that are most children's introduction to the concept.

Before reading this book, if I thought of labyrinths and mazes at all, I probably lumped them all together as childhood puzzles. After reading this book, I now know that many people take labyrinths very seriously, including New Age spiritualists and practical medical professionals, who consider walking a labyrinth as offering a form of therapy or meditation. Reading the book also prompted me to look for labyrinths near me. There are a half dozen or so in the Dallas area, one as near as Richland College. There's another at SMU (see photo below). Even if you can't be bothered reading a whole book about labyrinths, you still might want to check out the local ones. Walk the twisting path, drop your worries and cares, and let your mind wander back to ancient Troy.

From 2014 02 20 SMU
Habito Labyrinth at SMU

From 2014 03 10 Richland College
RLC Labyrinth at Richland College

The ebook in Kindle format is available for free from the Richardson Public Library.

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