Daedalus’ Escape from his Labyrinth and the Wisdom of the Spontaneous Action
Daedalus, a skillful craftsman and artist in Greek Mythology was asked by King Minos of Creta to build the Labyrinth in Knossos. The Labyrinth was an elaborate, deliberately confusing structure where it was easy to reach its center but impossible to return to the exit and is generally synonymous to a maze. In there King Minos imprisoned the Minotaur, a creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man who was later killed by Theseus. After Theseus killed him, he found the exit with the help of Ariadne’s thread. However, Minos later imprisoned in the labyrinth Daedalus together with his son Icarus. Daedalus had helped Mino’s wife Pasiphae to mate with Poseidon’s present to Mino, a white bull and give birth to the Minotaur.
So, the problem was that Daedalus had constructed the Labyrinth so cunningly that he himself could barely find the exit and escape it after he built it. Thus, so much creative that he was, he constructed wings out of wax for him and Icarus so that they would get away by flying from the labyrinth.
How we are Chasing a Goal
Think similarly of the situations that we are in chase of something, of a goal. What we typically do is we look ahead of us, towards the goal, horizontally. And we are focused. We consider normal to be passionate about this goal, to give all our energy in order to attain it.
But when we do that we most of the times fail to realize that we become limited without understanding. This horizontal focus towards the object of the desire instead of becoming our solution becomes our conviction and cause of suffering.
When we chase something we can easily fall into the trap of becoming attached. We see nothing outside of it. We forget any other aspect of life and lose every sense of flexibility. We by definition reject the present moment and live in a future one, an expectation of a moment that is supposed to make us happy or satisfied. This way we throw away life for something that may come. As well, the more we don’t get it most of the times the more suffering is caused to us. We become more attached because we keep giving more and more commitment to it. It’s easy to become obsessed.
Another thing that I have noticed is that many times people think that they act towards a goal while in fact, they act towards a very vague idea without even realizing. Not only they harm themselves the way I described but they don’t also chase something concrete. Obviously, this can’t lead ever lead them to any goal as there isn’t anything there. I see men chasing success while they haven’t realized how this can be defined in actual life’s terms. I see women chasing the great partner or husband while they don’t even know what specific characteristics he may have or they just describe any positive trait of a human being they can imagine, a character that hasn’t even existed in the literature.
You see Daedalus had the wisdom to know that trying to escape the labyrinth by going horizontally would lead him to failure. Thus he made the efficient choice and escaped with his son vertically!
Focusing Paradoxically in the Present Moment
What if, then, instead of just being focused on a not really determined objective in front of us, with the linear perception of time, to be focused in the present moment at any given moment. I know that this sounds strange with the way we have been used to think in the west, however, we have to be reminded that what we fail to realize is that we always have nothing more than that, the now. So when we try to clearly and sincerely look at what is now in our hands and what is demanded to happen right now our consciousness immediately expands. All the fog and blockage from random and most of the times pessimistic thoughts goes away and leaves space to the practical aspects that matter. And these aspects will be the steps that will potentially anyway lead us to where we really need to head to, this will obviously be more natural.
The Wisdom in the Spontaneous Action
So how many times do we really act instantaneously? With no mind, no thoughts. You are reading this now and you may think that I mean trivially. Why don’t you have a little trust in the guidance of your essence? Maybe you have been trained to think that it will guide you to the wrong roads, to the superfluous ones. I am talking about something different, about something that can be balanced and the more you recognize it the more you will be noticing the wisdom that is hidden in there, in case you haven’t noticed already.
Same way like you pick a glass of water when you are thirsty. Do you have any thoughts in between the need for water and the actual enjoyment of it? But there are many other situations that you consider much more serious. Maybe they are but many other times they are not, it’s this process of thinking that makes them look so serious. And the more you think the more you procrastinate, the more you misjudge, the more anxious you become and maybe in the very end you never act. This is what commonly happens so people seem to be staying trapped in lives of quiet desperation, always looking for someone else to blame for their misery.
Why we have to learn to Let Go
Do you think you can control every variable of life that can lead you to a target? Even if your mind tries to convince you that you have everything taken care of that isn’t possible. The more you look the more you will be noticing things that seem to need improvement. And since there is no ending on that maybe you can learn to let go. But what is let go again? Is it lying on my bed waiting for things to happen?
I wouldn’t say that, maybe it deserves once again a different interpretation. Letting go means first of all to accept the above fact, that all elements can never be controlled, it’s unnatural. Letting go on the contrary for me is the focused action. First, you recognize what are the things that you can change and you act on them. Instantly as we said because you are convinced that something can be done. After that, you recognize and accept what you can’t change from your side so you let it go. Isn’t this self-confidence?
Maybe the results won’t always be as you expect and you won’t be able to do anything about that. This is life. However, going with the flow of things demands the acceptance of this phenomenon while from time to time according to the outcomes you are shifting your sails.
Another thing that needs to be mentioned is that you can never be sure about the level of positivity and negativity of an outcome independent of your thoughts one more time. How many people do you know that a negative event in the long terms appeared to be their greatest blessing? The reason that they created miracles later? Maybe it was the way they perceived it that helped them, maybe were the circumstances that pushed them maybe both. The sure thing is that they didn’t remain in the misery of an outcome that looked inconsistent with their goals. Possibly you have experienced that as well.
What Really is Progress?
You may talk about progress as a goal. But what really is progress? How can you judge that? How can you be sure that what you are doing is or brings you progress? Unless you are in contact with someone that knows and can describe in words the whole knowledge and wisdom of the universe, unavoidably we will have to admit that progress is something subjective. And not only is subjective but can constantly be changing even in the same person’s mind. This change can occur in a matter of ages but it can also occur in a matter of days, how can we know that? Progress once more is just a label that has all the characteristics of a label which among others means that it doesn’t necessarily can be specifically defined.
So maybe you have defined progress the way the society or your environment or the media has. In that case is very possible to be chasing a goal that isn’t natural to you so it will be too pressurizing and vain. What would matter even if you get there?
As well, even if the goal of the progress in this sector is real for you it may lead you to the comparison with others. And in that case shouldn’t you be careful to not harm yourself during the process of the competition? Even if you follow all the rules and you do it fully legally, the laws don’t always protect you from losing your balance.
Consequently, one more time we have to be lead to the present moment decisions. To the spontaneous actions and the absence of the thinking process that too much is blocking us. Since there is no clear definition of improvement and progress we have to act according to what from moment to moment our essence realizes. This is the subjectivity of it anyway.
In order to not be misunderstood, when we say that we have to avoid thinking we don’t mean that it is never needed. But it’s preferable in my opinion to understand what every tool is made for. And it seems to me that the intellectual mind can very well be used for calculations and organization. It can create the basic map that will be in the background as a basic structure and guidance towards where we are heading to. However, the map is never the territory and being stuck in believing the opposite, as I described in the article, can very easily lead us to misjudgments, inaction, pain, and self-harm.
The Irreplicability of each and every Experience
At the same time, we should never be forgotten that every moment is unique and irreplicable. Our mind generalizes and makes us forget that. This shows once again the vagueness in everything we aim for. An experience can never be described enough or be put in a mind before it has happened especially if we don’t have lived anything similar. So for example when we want a specific job is impossible to be certain what is appropriate for us. That’s why it doesn’t make sense to me that very young children have to make so important decisions about their careers at a very early age.
Same like the career I think is everything. We can’t rush to conclusions and especially to be attached to ideas about what we need for the future. We can be setting a path but with plenty of flexibility in the process, because if we don’t experience something it’s impossible to know it in theory. So why then staying stuck to it?
This leads us to a more natural way of living in my opinion. A much more free way and with lack of guilts and fears. The important thing is to act. To give it “tries”. This is only how you can know and not with thoughts. And from moment to moment to be chipping away the access stone. In all the nows making the changes that lead us towards something more appropriate for us. This road doesn’t contain mistakes. You may have felt that during processes that were really coming from the inside of you. This is when the actions stop having names because of the spontaneity that governs them. With an empty mind looking upwards and not always horizontally, like Daedalus who managed to easily escape the imprisoning construction made by his own mind!