I started to write a post about liminality, which turned out to be rather squirrelly, because it turned out to be difficult for me to structure a piece of writing about boundaries and borders dissolving. I was getting away from what I really wanted to talk about, which is about living at the margins. I have talked to a couple of people about this, and the notion I want to stress here is that this is not about being marginalized, but rather about hanging around at the edges – which are also often the points of intersection and overlap.
In my mental map of where I am located relative to the groups I associate with, it’s always on the edge – almost rarely it is in the center. I feel uncomfortable in large groups. I often feel like an oddball, that for whatever reason I just don’t quite fit in. I’m too slow, I’m too alternative/mainstream, too queer/not queer enough, too sensitive, I lack ambition, I’m not driven enough, etc. If I pull my gaze out further, I often imagine the spider web or Indra’s Net, where I am one point of intersection but if I only reach out in any direction there are a multitude of connections.
I like to hang out here, because there are interesting things that happen. And mostly, because I am perfectly positioned to connect people who are closer to the center. I have this idea that I am like the gloss that monks used to write in their manuscripts, adding commentary to color to the original text, expanding on it in some way and connecting people in the present to something from the past.
Liminality is about “standing at the threshold” – except that it refers to ritual space and an internal transformation that occurs for the participant. According to the wikipedia article, liminality has become more widely adopted and applied by mainstream culture, “undermining its significance.”
I love the liminal space, because it’s the space of transformation and also the space of possibility. It’s the place where the boundaries of time dissolve and we become connected across time and geography. A friend posted on Facebook about re-enacting an action that was done hundreds of time in the past in preparation for a ritual and how it collapsed the boundary of time until he felt that he was with the people who were doing it originally. I have experienced that same thing when I prepare food that I know my grandmother or ancestors going back further made. It’s like I have this power to bring the past to the present.
In my mind, these concepts are connected, just the like various groups with which I interact. However, connecting them in words is proving to challenge my abilities. I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these concepts and how you relate to them or how they relate to you.
Liminality is one of my favorite spiritual concepts, standing in the interstices of time and space so as to move between them, mentally and emotionally. For me it is connected with embracing uncertainty and acknowledging the persistence of change.
Like you, I have spent much of my life feeling on the edge of most groups, in some ways. The techie among the artists, the creative type among the techies, the baby of the group, or–more often now–the old woman, etc. While I think it is a powerful position, and one that has brought many wonderful gifts and connections to my life, I notice that in the past few years I have found, or founded, groups in which I am more central and more comfortable in that role. So my thinking about liminality as a social condition is changing and I look forward to seeing how this new phase develops and what it reveals.
I’ve recently confessed to you that I feel very literal these days, and I feel literally like an edge-dweller. Okay, so not literally. But, my life is lived on the fringes of society. I live on the fringes of groups to which I belong. I see this as a theme, so I’m wondering if that’s a common feeling. Does anyone feel like they’re the essence of the societies they subscribe to?
Your [otherwheres] talk about dreams makes me wonder where I left metaphor. Is my life so very bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy? I don’t think so.
I’m tucking this post in my mental back pocket, to retrieve when I feel stretched by my expectations of myself and how far short I feel I fall in relation to those in the center. I stand at the edges as well, most comfortable where I can make a quick exit should things get too loud, personal, fast, ambitious… But I have never considered the advantages of this position – that to live in the margins means embracing the intersection of possibility and transformation. I love the imagery evoked by “standing in the threshold” The threshold may be a space of demarcation, but it is also an entry, a transfer of energy, a connection. Thank you for this. It’s lovely to belong.
I’m so glad this helped you shift your thinking. I do wonder how many people actually feel they are in the center and how many people consider themselves to be on the margins. I believe we are all in the place of possibility. Thanks!