September 12, 2013

A Unique Labyrinth in America

By Margaret Rappaport

There are numerous labyrinth designs. History shows us designs on the ground, on rock walls, in buildings and on objects. It took America, however, to devise a labyrinth that takes the design from the ground to the sky. I’m talking about the roller coaster. Yes the labyrinth that we see and experience at amusement parks all over the world originated in the late 19th century in the United States. One design was developed in Russia at about the same time. It was called in Russian “American Mountains” Later in the 20th century,  the American space agency, NASA, used a roller coaster as a means of escape from a rocket that might fail to launch.

Think about it for a minute. The roller coaster consists of a track that rises and falls with many inversions in a pattern that begins and returns to the same place. It’s not a maze because it has a single path. It also may not be viewed by some as a true labyrinth because people ride it at breakneck speed rather than gently walking it. It is however, a spiraling pathway that directs the visitor to follow. It transforms time and experience although briefly. It takes our breath away and some find it genuinely enjoyable.

What does it mean that this unique labyrinth design requires that we sit in a locked seat as we speed around the pathway? What does it mean that we think of this labyrinth experience as a thrilling ride?

It may not mean anything in particular but the roller coaster labyrinth certainly peaks our imaginations.

Looking forward,
Margaret Rappaport