Into the Labyrinth : A PhD Comprehensive Portfolio

Labyrinth as Metaphor

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk … I have walked myself into my best thoughts (Søren Kierkegaard, 1978, p. 214 in Sellers, 2016).)

A labyrinth is not a maze.

     Labyrinths and mazes are distinctly different in purpose, intention, creation, and structure (Midgley & Trimmer, 2013; Sellers, 2016; Ullyatt, 2011). Conceptually, labyrinths and mazes are often used and considered interchangeable, leading to "terminological confusion" (Ullyatt, 2011, p. 107). Historically, both labyrinths and mazes have a presence throughout ancient times in many cultures around the globe (Sellers, 2016; Ulyatt, 2011).  

     A maze is intended to confuse and misdirect, with multicursal paths leading to dead ends and retractions (Sellers, 2016). Complexity is inherent in the design. Mazes agitate and are designed so individuals get lost in the three dimensional, high walled enclosures. While mazes can be constructed from ice blocks, garden hedges, or in corn fields, they are most often envisioned as permanent, subterranean cave structures as depicted in ancient Greek mythologies (Ullyatt, 2011). 

     A labyrinth is laid out in an open space, using markers to outline a unicursal, recursive path that leads into and through the pattern. Simple in design, labyrinths are unwalled, visible, and patterned. Walkers can observe the whole design, but need to concentrate on each step and turn in order to stay on the path. Its intention is introspective and walking a labyrinth is relaxing; a "place of deep reflection, of calm and contemplation; a wellspring for creativity; a place to connect with our deepest selves" (Sellers, 2016, p. 2).

     This comprehensive portfolio will apply labyrinth as a metaphor. While a maze is, in some ways, representative of PhD journey, with moments of feeling lost, confused, and agitated, the labyrinth is a more evocative metaphor for my own journey toward this moment in the centre.

"the walker can stand still, look back on their journey so far and look ahead, knowing that one foot in front of the other will bring them safely to the centre and the return to the outer world." (Sellers, 2016, p. 1)

This is my moment to stand still.

     I have walked to the centre of the Joint PhD program, the moment when I will be transformed from student to candidate. Here, in this comprehensive portfolio, I look back to the path through this metaphoric labyrinth that has brought me here. Through this step by step journey into the labyrinth, I am transformed as cognate and learner.

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