The Labyrinth: Our Lives

On the signature line of my work email, I have a quotation from the Persian poet and mystic Rumi:  “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.”  Recently, I sent an email out to the entire faculty of my school, and a teacher whom I do not know responded to  me–not about my email, but about  my signature line. She told me that she really, really liked that quotation.  She made me stop and think:  I had placed that quotation in my signature line a long time ago (maybe three years ago).  I had virtually forgotten about it.

I wrote the teacher back, thanked her for the comment and told her that while it is a favorite quotation of mine, that it had been there a long time.  Perhaps it was time to change it.  She wrote back:  No.  Don’t change it.

I have not changed it.  I did look the quotation up, and I discovered or remembered that there is more to it.  There is another line: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”


Turtle Peace Labyrinth at Teaneck Nature Preserve. From the Friends of Brook Park website:

That last line reminds me of why I love this quotation. What is our world full of today if not fear and war, disease and hunger, pollution and over-consumption?  These are all real problems that threaten to do us in.  Our approaches to them are themselves filled with notions of wrongdoing and rightdoing that create too  many times  more obstacles than they help. There is a place, however, beyond “you are wrong and I am right” where we could meet.  In that place, if we were to work with each other there, we could find a way to be in harmony and at peace. We might actually make a difference for the benefit of all.

Our lives are labyrinthine.  What are the chances that a white boy who grew up in the rural South of the 20th century might come to know and love some words written by a Persian poet living in the 14th century, much less take guidance from them?  What are the chances that a teacher unknown to me could reach out through email and remind me of those words? What are the chances that our world might just find a way to that place beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing–to meet and lie down in the grass? It looks like we will never get there, and sometimes I despair that we won’t.  The Labyrinth calls. One more step. Just one more step.  How does the beautiful and magnificent Labyrinth that is your life call to you today?

Bob Patrick

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2 Responses to The Labyrinth: Our Lives

  1. Lydia says:

    I find myself struggling to climb out of all the despair that the world has to offer. I wish I could that place of wonder again more often in my life.

    • It’s a lot, Lydia. What is going on in the world today is heavy with strife and conflict, and so much looming fear. And now, not only is it delivered to us in our living rooms, but – now that devices have gone mobile – we are bombarded with the vision of an angry world everywhere we go. We create it as our reality and own it as our darkness through immersion in the narrative of enmity.

      But look around you. That place of wonder is everpresent in your home, in your garden, in your work, in your community, in the eyes of the people you love. That field “out beyond” is the place where Love lives, and “getting there” is possible when we remember this and turn off the other noise for a minute.

      it is everpresent within each of us, within you , and getting there merely entails stepping forward into the light that awaits. Moving toward Love, toward compassion, toward a world not ruled by fear. One step at a time.

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