Monday, January 27, 2014

Guest Post by J.M. McDermott - On Labyrinths.

Remember the scene in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth when the two doors stand side-by-side, one leads to the castle and the other to *dum dum dum* certain dooooom! and the guards are two entities. One lies, and one tells the truth.

All right, there's a couple things I want to point out. First, one of them lies, the other tells the truth? But, they both tell the truth before the whole riddle begins. Also, there's four of them, not two. If the one on the bottom is lying about the ones on top, than he knows which one it is, and it sort of alludes to that when the one on top gives the answer by consulting with the one on bottom.

In other words, this is not a stable matrix. The walls shift and the stones move and the creatures that appear to be a simple puzzle prove to be as unstable as the walls around them. This is one of those moments where Sarah tries to outwit madness itself, possibly her own delirious imagination filling the air with unstable structures. (You cannot outwit insanity. This is Freud's great failure, and Jennifer Connoly's.)

I do like the symbols of the scene, though. The Janus-like guards, each with one head on top and one on bottom, also contradict each other. I suspect the riddle is also cubed. One lies, and one tells the truth. However, aren't we talking about four goblins, not two?

What do you do in the labyrinth with these monstrous walls and doors?

If you can only ask one question in this situation, the puzzle becomes even more complex, between the four liars and truthtellers. Now, you cannot solve the logic puzzle with the information in front of you -- you only think you can. Thus, the question must defy logic. By attempting to solve the puzzle with logic, Sarah fell into the trap of her own self-confidence in reason.

The true door, I suspect, is an internal one symbolized by the doubts of the arguing Janus goblins. Sarah's intellect lies to her. For the duration of her stay in the labyrinth, her rational intellect throws her deeper and deeper into the pit of the labyrinth. Only be reaching out with her heart, and befriending elements within the illogical order of the magical labyrinth, can she overcome the devilry inside of the twisting paths.

Responding to the Goblin King's many torments with reason only empowered the master of the clock. By responding with her heart, Sarah was able to overthrow the Goblin King.

In essence, instead of attempting to outsmart the Janus guards, (walking through the door of the "lie" of reason) she should have trusted her instinct on the matter, or even made friends with one of them. I'd suggest, if you are in a similar situation, asking a question like "Would you like this cookie?" The one who tells the truth will want the cookie. The liar will not want it. Win them both over with friendship. This is, after all, a children's film.

My Maze is not a children's book. There is only doom behind either door.

I suspect in Henson's Labyrinth, both doors lead to the center of the maze. Either way, Sarah would have survived, and the only certain doom at hand was the doom of time, itself, drowning all great films in a flood of sound and colors, signifying nothing to the archivists of time, some far day from now, when no films are watched again.

Doom comes for all. Everyone dies. Our children and our works and the spirit we push out into the world is our only hope.

Behind both doors in the maze, all the five doors where survivors stumble into the rocks and occasional tree, there is a doom. There is an eternity inside the tessaracts there, as well.

I have seen the Labyrinth too much. I wrote a book inspired by watching it too much. The book is called Maze. I hope you enjoy it.

Maze is available now from Apex Publications.

Bio: J.M. McDermott is the author of Last Dragon, Disintegration Visions, The Dogsland Trilogy, and Women and Monsters. He holds an MFA from the Stonecoast Program from the University of Southern Maine. He lives in San Antonio, Texas. On February 1st, around noon, he will be signing books at the Twig Bookstore in San Antonio.


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