The theme of the week seems to be liminality: the experience of being in-between things. The term “liminal” refers to the space encompassed by a door frame, a place in which one is neither in one room nor another, neither outside nor truly inside. We usually pay little attention to those places of transition until we find ourselves marooned there. We tend to ask for aid when we feel stuck in our lives, when our old selves no longer work but who we will be next is not yet knowable, when things are liminal.
In late adulthood I have become more curious about the places in our lives where we find ourselves between things., and find metaphors about being between things useful to know and good to think. A few metaphors that come immediately to mind are: between a rock and a hard place; neither here nor there; neither awake nor asleep; and the Bardo. There are also the profoundly liminal experiences of illness and death, and any number of metaphors drawn from place: beaches, swamps, and borders coming immediately to mind. As we are reminded too often, terrorism calls forth its own form of liminality. Each of these experiences and places speaks to the difficulty and mystery we humans so often experience when we find ourselves undergoing dramatic change.
Liminal experiences and spaces invite us to ask many questions. What are we to do when we find ourselves wandering in the wilderness of change? How are we to make do when we are neither who we were nor who we shall be? Can we find a way to be open to the creativity that comes with not knowing, welcoming the ghosts and spirits of change with somewhat open arms a la Ebeneezer Scrooge? Might we use the time in the Bardo to look at our lives with a whit of compassion and a dollop of playfulness? Might we try on possible new versions of self, knowing who we will be when we finally walk, run, or fall into that next room is ultimately unpredictable?
Liminality is an ancient concept brimming with possibility, inherent in much of our thought, and deeply embedded in our understanding of the universe. Nature seems filled with possibility and a hunger for transformation, and expresses these traits in self organizing complex systems evolving themselves through time, space, and interaction. It seems we humans, and the discomfort we experience in the in-between places, are expressions of the riotous creativity of Nature.