Understanding Labyrinthine

Topics: Maze, Labyrinth, Turf maze Pages: 5 (2128 words) Published: December 14, 2012
Understanding Labyrinthine

"Labyrinthine. The very sound of that word sums it up-as slippery as thought, as perplexing as the truth, as long and convoluted as a life" (Cooper 347). That was how Bernard Cooper ended his insightful and thought-provoking essay "Labyrinthine." Those words haunt me to this very day. Cooper had perfectly described life through the pronunciation of one lone word, "labyrinthine" (630). It was through a trivial infatuation, one that started when he was seven, that Cooper was able to make such a powerful observation. He loved to solve mazes, and he loved to create them even more. He was so fascinated with mazes that it’s no surprise he can so easily come up with an observation like this. This only proves to show that a single, powerful, infatuation can teach you a great deal. Why did Cooper have an infatuation with something so unique? He used to want to feel a stronger emotional connection with his parents. That used to be his goal. Cooper was a “big surprise” to his parents who were older than most parents at Cooper’s age (346). They were more forgetful and tired than the younger parents. When he asked his mother to solve a maze he created, she replied with “You’ve got to be kidding me…I’m lost enough as it is” (346). Her life was already in a mess of confusion. She couldn’t handle more. Cooper had hoped his parents would solve his mazes in order to understand them. He noticed the daze of old age his parents lived in; “[his] father’s hair receded, [his] mother’s grayed. ‘When you’ve lived as long as we have’ they’d say,” as though they had lived forever (346). In order to try to help them, he wanted to understand them and so he became infatuated with mazes. It was all to get a better understanding on life and old age. Thirty years later he had finally understood after he started aging. With the days becoming “loopy and confusing”, Cooper understood why his parents were unwilling to solve his mazes. And he understood that life was “labyrinthine” (347). Had Cooper’s infatuation with mazes gone a step further and turned into an obsession, Cooper would have understood nothing. Phil, in Ellen Goodman's "The Company Man", had taken that one extra step. Phil was obsessed with work to point that his work had eventually killed him at the age of 51. Although Phil was an extremely hard worker, “the obituary didn’t mention that”(Goodman 629). He was rather remembered for being a bad father and husband. His obsession with work overtook everything else in his life. "He worked six days a week, five of them until eight or nine at night" (Goodman 629). What did he learn from this obsession? Nothing, or at least he didn't give himself time to learn anything. He just worked, mindlessly and endlessly. If he enjoyed working, as Cooper had enjoyed making mazes, Phil would have probably been able to understand something of his own life. He could have understood the importance of getting and receiving the support of his family, the joys of working for loved ones, and he would have still been alive and well. There's a very thin line between infatuation and obsession, but they follow two very different routes. Reading Cooper's essay and Goodman's work of fiction made an infatuation I used to have come to my mind. I thought of the time I was infatuated with these small figures of Cowboys and Indians. They were my treasured action figures. Every day at five, I would sit down with my soldiers in the living room, as my grandma flipped through channels on the television and my grandpa was glued to the computer watching his stocks go down, and prepare them for a full-blown war. By 5:10, they would be charging at each other, full speed ahead, with each side running their own battle plan. After an hour or two, by the time my grandpa had tired from watching his money disappear, and my grandma got bored of the television, my soldiers stopped fighting. I realize now how this small infatuation had actually helped me get...
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