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Not too far off the beaten path lies a part of campus that most undergraduates seem to avoid: the Harvard Divinity School. You may ask yourself, “Why on earth would I find myself at the Divinity School? Isn’t it just teeming with monks, introspective philosophers, and, let’s be honest, a few internally-confused cult leaders in the making?” Maybe, but tucked away amidst the grandeur of the gothic buildings, there’s a spot that even the most devout of skeptics would find hard to resist.
As you meander through the Divinity School courtyard, the stone and grass walkway, the sturdy benches, and the metallic tables all blend seamlessly, offering a harmonious combination of nature and architecture. Tall trees provide shade, their branches swaying gently in the breeze, creating a calm atmosphere perfect for studying or introspection.
While the courtyard itself is a gem, offering students a green space to work or relax, there’s something else that’s easy to miss. Shielded by a barrier of tall, whispering bushes is the HDS Labyrinth. It’s not immediately obvious, and many might walk past without giving it a second thought, but it’s there, waiting to be discovered.
The Labyrinth reveals itself not as a grand spectacle, but as a subtle challenge. The path, just wide enough to fit the breadth of a foot, winds intricately, tempting the observer to step in and navigate its course. At first glance, it might seem like a puzzle to be solved, with its long and winding contours suggesting a test of patience and perseverance.
But unlike a maze, which offers multiple routes and dead ends, the labyrinth is unicursal. It has a single, unambiguous route to the center and back out again. There’s no risk of getting lost, no matter how many twists and turns you encounter.
For some, this might seem dramatic. Without scrutiny, it’s just a stone surface with some radial lines etched into it.
But you need to take that first step.
When I first ventured into the labyrinth, I found myself growing impatient, almost wanting to cheat and skip a few turns to reach the center faster. Yet, by resisting the urge to jump ahead, I felt an odd sense of accomplishment. It was worth every deliberate step.
Nearby, a plaque delves deeper into the labyrinth’s significance. It highlights the ancient practice of walking with a sacred intent — a ritual that’s been embraced by numerous cultures and religious traditions. The act of walking has always been more than just a physical journey; it’s a reflection, a meditation, a connection to something greater. The labyrinth, as the inscription eloquently puts it, invites us all, whether on foot or in wheelchairs, solo or with company, to turn our everyday strolls into a purposeful pilgrimage.
This idea of purposeful wandering, of seeking meaning in every step, resonates deeply — especially in a place like Harvard.
With its centuries-old traditions, Harvard isn’t just a place of learning; it’s a crucible of choices. Around every corner, there’s a decision waiting to be made. Which courses to enroll in? Which internship to chase? Which club to comp? And let’s not even get started on the existential dread of choosing a concentration. The weight of these decisions can be paralyzing, especially when it feels like every choice is setting the trajectory for the rest of your life.
Beyond picking a path, the ever-present specter of comparison can make it feel like no choice is the right one — especially when it seems like everyone else has their life figured out. There’s your roommate, diligently prepping for the MCAT between hospital volunteering shifts. Across the hall, your friend is deep into leetcode, prepping to be a DE Shaw Software Engineer. Even the salad guy in the dining hall is buried in case studies, gearing up for a summer stint at a prestigious think tank in D.C. And then there’s you, wondering if you’re the only one without a roadmap, the only one feeling adrift in a sea of purpose.
This is where the labyrinth comes in.
Its design, though seemingly convoluted, offers a profound lesson: The path to the center is the longest possible one, and it’s deliberately so. It’s not about reaching the end quickly; it’s about the journey, the experience, the introspection.
In the labyrinth, as in our academic and personal journeys, the winding path itself holds as much significance as the endpoint. Every twist and turn, every moment of introspection, adds depth to our experience. And unlike the mazes of our childhood, filled with dead-ends and wrong turns, the labyrinth has one path that always leads to the center.
It’s a comforting reminder that even when our journey feels winding and uncertain, we’re still on the right track. We might feel lost, but we’re not. Every twist, every turn, is there for a reason.
The labyrinth, with its singular path, assures us of this. No matter how winding our journey, how many times we circle back, we’re headed where we're meant to be. The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or simply need a moment of reflection, take a detour to this stone Labyrinth. Walk its path, and let it serve as a source of comfort. To all of us feeling the weight of uncertainty, remember the labyrinth’s lesson: You just can’t get lost. Every choice, every experience, is a step on your unique path. And trust me, every step is worth it.
Aneesh C. Muppidi ’25 is a Computer Science and Neuroscience concentrator in Lowell House. His column, “Leafing By,” runs biweekly on Thursdays.
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