We Are Liminal
As we fly through the air; our feet having just left the ground but not yet touching the water below.
We no longer have the reassuring solidity beneath us, and are yet to embrace the freezing buoyancy of our imminent immersion.
In this very moment we are between two different states, neither standing or swimming, but in a moment of transition.
We are liminal.
What made us jump? How do we feel? Whatever happens next others will inevitably find it easier to follow, or those already swimming will welcome us in.
Liminality means being on a boundary or threshold; a fragile and brief moment when a transition occurs. The concept originated from anthropologists studying the ambiguity that occurs in the middle stage of a rites of passage (e.g. a bar mitzvah) where participants no longer hold their initial status (e.g. being a child) but have not yet begun the transition to the new status they will hold once the rite is complete (e.g. adulthood).
Liminal states have many parallels in nature, where some of the most interesting scientific phenomenon also occur at the boundaries between physical states. For instance some materials go through remarkable transformations such as undergoing an abrupt change in volume or even becoming superconductive when they are heated or cooled to a particular temperature.
So sometimes we just need to get over ourselves and embrace the opportunities all around us, by jumping in and realising it’s actually really lovely. And of course other times we need to drag ourselves back out again and watch the water flowing by and observe what is going on instead.
The art of knowing when to jump, when to swim around, and when it’s time to climb back out again, is the art of liminal thinking.
So here we are. What’s going on? How do we feel? The only question that really matters right now is what shall we do next?