Liminality: A psychological or metaphysical state of being on the “threshold” of or between two different planes…
British anthropologist, Victor Turner spent his life documenting the rituals and rites of passage of primitive societies. He was fascinated by how members of these communities would, from time to time, separate themselves from the boundaries and distinctions of ‘normal’ tribal life, to enter what he termed ‘liminal’ time: thresholds of unusual experience where individuals would be imbued with fresh spiritual insights, creative powers and deep healing.
Liminal moments were journeys, both physical and metaphysical: vision quests, walkabouts, ‘betwixt and between’ instances where prior notions of status and certainty buckled to flux and chaos, but so too, profound inner transformation.
Liminal time was simultaneously revered and considered taboo, a mysterious plane to dwell for too long: risky, perhaps even dangerous.
It is the latter attitude alone that befits the modern world’s perception of in-betweenness.
Western thought rarely celebrates being ‘in-between’. It prefers certainties and distinctions – boundaries – an attitude and disdain that appears rooted in the dominant thought systems of our time. As author George P. Hanson articulates:
Our way of thinking is governed by Aristotelian logic. In this system, the “law of the excluded middle” specifies that there is no middle ground. Culture is rationalised; the betwixt and between is excluded from thought.
We dig knowns, and fear the ‘un’. We force complexity into manageable boxes, where it sits, misunderstood and neglected. Meanwhile, we struggle with sexuality, fluidity, nuance, the metaphysical, the imaginary. We live in the future, the past, and rarely the present. When conflict arises, “You’re either with us, or against us.” “A” is either “A” or “not A”. We exclude ‘the middle’ to our detriment.
It’s worth remembering that a boundary is not just a separation of sides, but also the space that unites them.
The state of the world at present is nothing if not in-between. The old is crumbling to make way for the new. We’re living Gramsci’s interregnum, the Kairos, the cresting wave that we either hang ten our collective longboard on – and find direction – or get pummeled in the whitewash.
In a liminal time, perceptions change. Thought processes, beliefs, stories we tell ourselves about who we are. By embracing the excluded middle, holding space for complexity, by telling new tales through fresh lenses – honest ones, with truth – we hold the in-between, and gain ground.
– Dool, 2016