Frontiers and passages are everywhere. We cross them a thousand times a day.
Near each frontier, there’s a territory we can call liminal. The word comes from a Latin root meaning “threshold, cross-piece, sill.”
The threshold requires your attention. It’s a place of transformation and alchemy, where you let go of one thing and embrace another.
Your home is packed with liminal territories and their delineations, which are sometimes clear, sometimes vague. Every window separates two distinct environments. The air you breathe is different on each side of the window. To open a window, to close a window, to look out of a window are liminal experiences with special sensations and emotions.
Out in the park, as well as inside your home, most days you’ll pass multiple times from sunlight to shade. The liminal territory between the two may be speckled, light and dark intermingling for your delight.
Air and water, too, are separate environments, with a fluid frontier between them. Could you live underwater, full time? Could you live without water? Could you live without ever passing between the watery world and the dry world? To dive, to resurface, to dive again: it’s life-giving and life-affirming.
Passing from the subterranean to the surface, from outside to inside, from upstairs to downstairs . . . Stairs are magical, sometimes intoxicating (a spiral staircase in a gilded palace), sometimes terrifying (dark and damp and dangerous). It doesn’t matter if it’s the “good” stairs or the “evil” stairs; passing through any staircase or stairwell is always meaningful.
Passing from a gangway to an airplane is a consequential “entering.” Air, light, sound, and smell all change noticeably. If you’re a sensitive soul, the change is dramatic. In theory, you have some control as regards how much you like or dislike any one thing. I’m suggesting you start liking the liminal experience. First, because the experience is inevitable and necessary; second, because it has powerful ritualistic and symbolic properties.
Hate flying with all your might, if you want to. Alternatively, observe the space, the interactions and personalities, the status negotiations, the infinitely fascinating planeload of humanity. Then, take off. All you have to do is to abstract the airplane, and you become Icarus. Leaving the Earth is unthinkable, impossible, incredible. And the moment of leaving, which is a liminal experience, is a death-and-rebirth of sorts.
Dawn, day, dusk, night . . . Passing from awake to asleep seems so “normal,” and yet the moment you fall asleep after a demanding day, the moment you relax, the moment you let go, the moment you enter the inner house with a thousand unexplored rooms, oh, how different, how strange, how beautiful.
©2018, Pedro de Alcantara