the mouth of a labyrinth | Simone Weil
I’ve read this striking quote from philosopher Simone Weil many times, but haven’t known how to describe what it looks like. Here’s the quote, reformatted for easier reading, and edited with feminine pronouns. I think this could be about me. Maybe about you, too? My comments follow.
The beauty of the world is the mouth of a labyrinth.
The unwary individual who on entering takes a few steps
is soon unable to find the opening.
Worn out, with nothing to eat or drink, in the dark,
separated from her dear ones,
and from everything she loves and is accustomed to,
she walks on without knowing anything or hoping anything,
incapable even of discovering whether she is really going forward
or merely turning round on the same spot.
But this affliction is as nothing
compared with the danger threatening her.
For if she does not lose courage,
if she goes on walking,
it is absolutely certain that
she will finally arrive at the center of the labyrinth.
And there God is waiting to eat her.
Later she will go out again,
but she will be changed,
she will have become different,
after being eaten and digested by God.
Afterward she will stay near the entrance so that
she can gently push all those who come near into the opening.
–Simone Weil, Waiting for God
* * *
Near the end of a recent visit to Longwood Gardens, we came to the formal flower walk. The colors were spectacular. However, the odor was so strong that one family member said it was giving him a headache.
Was it a strange flower? The odor persisted all the way down the flower walk. It seems it came from mulch in the flower beds.
For some reason, I thought about Simone Weil’s words.
The beauty of the world is the mouth of the labyrinth….
at the center of the labyrinth….
God is waiting to eat her.
The world’s beauty includes nature’s beauty, here described as the mouth of a labyrinth that draws me in, unaware of what lies ahead.
Once drawn in, I find myself following the labyrinth to its center, and experiencing at least the following dis-ease:
- temporary separation from my familiar life outside the labyrinth
- ignorance about where I am and where I’m going
- fear of going in circles that lead to nowhere
The center of the labyrinth is even more disquieting, if not dangerous. The mouth of God waits at the center. It waits to eat me alive, along with any other unsuspecting traveler.
So God eats and digests me. Turns me into mulch or compost, full of life-generating potential. Like compost baking in the sun. A form of death. Everything broken down, turned into solid and liquid gold that feeds the next generation.
Though nature isn’t God, it reflects something about the way God works. It helps me understand why life sometimes feels like a journey to another planet. A messy, smelly, sometimes terrifying journey of dying in order to be reborn as something truly valuable. Something that doesn’t look at all like the image I hope to see in my mirror.
My spiritual formation isn’t about getting all cleaned up. Nor is it about being destroyed by God or anyone else. It’s about being changed, transformed. It won’t happen unless I’m willing to be risk getting lost—helpless and unable to get myself out of my situation, much less understand where I’m going and why.
The journey itself can be terrifying; so can God’s role. It seems alien to all I might expect God to be. Thankfully, I have a choice to enter the labyrinth or not.
Or do I? There’s Simone Weil, standing at the mouth of the labyrinth, gently pushing unsuspecting travelers into the open mouth. In which case, I will emerge transformed by God if I keep moving along, one disorienting turn after another.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 June 2015
Mosaic Labyrinth Image from pintrest.com