The Labyrinth of Life in The Garden of Forking Paths by Yu Tsun
A labyrinth is classically a human construction designed to confuse. It can trap our lives, hiding our past and future and constantly forcing us to make choices, even though we may not know what the consequences of those choices might be. The confusion of the puzzle may even tempt us to run blindly through the labyrinth, ending in disaster. Life itself is often considered such a labyrinth, and by adopting the strategies of travelers who came before and choosing our path cautiously while playing close attention to the patterns of our lives, we may find the right path through the maze. Although the Labyrinth appears to be an intellectual challenge, every turn is accompanied by an ethical dilemma as well. 'The Garden of Forking Paths' is both an ethical and intellectual riddle. Consideration of Yu Tsun's intellectual choices must be accompanied by consideration of his ethical choices.
The most terrifying aspect of the garden of forking paths is that the ending of the maze is never in sight. Often, we are aware of only the obvious consequences of taking any particular turn, while the obscure consequences are rarely anticipated. As a result, we cannot be sure where the next turn will bring us until we have made the choice. An action of tremendous personal significance, such as Stephen Albert's murder, may have no greater consequences than a winning a battle in a war that the German's could possibly end up losing. Ts'ui Pên himself was murdered by a stranger before he had a chance to explain the nature of his labyrinth, while the current war was started by another homicidal stranger. The choices made by these men within their labyrinths have brought Yu Tsun to Stephen Albert's home, to become the stranger who will kill Albert. The action of the story seems inevitable, yet such inevitability is a deception. The path we have chosen may appear to be the only path that can be taken, but in reality, the possibilities are far more complex, as Albert explains that Ts'ui Pên ?did not believe in a uniform, absolute time. He believed in an infinite series of times, in a growing, dizzying net of divergent, convergent, and parallel times . . .[where] time forks perpetually toward innumerable futures?(579).
If we could see consequences of each decision we made before forced to make the decision, taking a particular path in the labyrinth would be much less difficult. Unfortunately, we can not see the future, and many of us lack a clear perception of what happened before to lead us to the crossroad. Similarly to Yu Tsun on his fatal journey, we are constantly confronted with choices, but we are dimly aware of the presence of most of these choices, and even less aware of the full consequences. Once Albert turned his back, Yu Tsun ?readied the revolver?(579) and ?fired with extreme caution? (579). Yu Tsun did not consider any ethical consequences of his actions; he just killed a man who spent...