When I was a kid, I loved going to “Playland”. Playland was the quintessential beachside amusement park, complete with all kinds of carnival-style rides, a thrilling, twisty roller coaster, head-snapping bumper cars, and all sorts of skill games and prizes. On some special occasions (such as a birthday) my family and I would spend the better part of a day there. Dazzled by the lights, screams, and laughter of fellow revelers, we’d stroll along the Midway, eating hot dogs, popcorn, and cotton candy as we went.
Of all the attractions, the Fun House was my favorite. Everything was padded, even the floor, and you had to take off your shoes before you could go in. In addition to many other things, it housed a huge, polished wooden slide, a giant spinning “record player”, and a dark, tunnel-like rolling barrel. The slide was several stories high and, if you were brave enough to sit on a burlap sack and let go at the top, the slippery ride down—with its several air-catching humps, would make your stomach feel a bit queasy. The giant “record player” was a blast, for people would sit on its flat wooden surface and squeeze together in the hope of staying on as it spun. The circular platform turned slowly at first, then it gradually gained speed, spinning faster and faster. One by one, we’d all fly off and careen into the padded walls. Only those in the center of the “record” stood any chance of staying on for the full ride—and that was only if they could somehow manage to endure the disorienting spinning motion. Finally, everyone would try to walk through the rolling barrel without falling down in a helpless, laughing heap. The latter two challenges always left us dizzy, giggling, and barely able to walk—or even stand up straight.
Everything in the Fun House, it seems, was designed to confuse, distract, disorient, and entertain—and it all worked marvelously! Bold stripes, vibrant colors, and sudden, hissing puffs of air from hidden nozzles assailed us from all angles as we raced from one attraction to the next.
Inside the Fun House, the Hall of Mirrors was one of the most challenging obstacles of the entire park. With its floor-to-ceiling polished mirrors and unpredictable twists and turns, only the bravest of souls dared enter. In many ways I suppose, a trip through the Hall was like being trapped inside a giant, ever-changing kaleidoscope. Some of the mirrors were perfectly smooth and clear, while others presented us with distorted reflections of ourselves. In one mirror, for example, one might be tall and thin. In another, one might be short and fat. In yet another, one might be wavy or even top-heavy.
Once inside the Hall of Mirrors, it sometimes felt it as if I’d never find my way out. The brilliantly-designed, holographic labyrinth frustrated every attempt at escape. I’d walk forward, only to crash into a reflection of myself or someone else. I’d turn a corner, thinking it was the way out, only to find it was a dead end. In this distorted world of confusion and false images, I felt nearly overwhelmed by feelings of fear, anger, and frustration. Once my older cousins began to help me along however, I gradually learned to overcome my sense of panic. I gained the confidence that allowed me to more carefully and patiently find my way out. Once through, I was gratefully reunited with those of my family who had waited outside. It took several successful trips through the mirrored maze before I finally felt comfortable enough to even begin enjoying the challenge.
Many years later, it occurs to me that life in the “physical realm” is a lot like a journey through the Hall of Mirrors. Things are rarely what they seem, the Truth of our path is cleverly hidden, and it’s exceedingly difficult not to become immersed in and confused by all the panic and commotion that surrounds us. At those times when I feel most lost in the maze of Life’s mirrors, I’ve learned that it helps to just stop for a moment and seek my own inner calm. The quiet sense of peace and reassurance I find reminds me that this is all just a game—and that everything here is just an illusion. I even seem to recall that I chose to be here—just so I could have this very experience. This soon helps me realize that I needn’t be afraid and, once I re-discover this, my journey quickly becomes fun again! I’m then able to move forward in confidence, knowing that one day I’ll eventually find my way out—and back to the Home I’ve always known.
So if the illusion of Life ever overtakes you and you find yourself feeling even a little afraid, just remember that it’s perfectly OK. Everyone feels that way from time to time. Just grab my hand or the hand of the person next to you. We can all make our way through this amazing and wonderful House of Mirrors…together.
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