Liminality

That’s one of the academic buzz-words today, but the idea is an old one:

“Tell him to buy me an acre of land,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Between the salt water and the sea sand,
Then he shall be a true lover of mine.”1

We recognize the words from an ancient English ballad, made popular in the 1960’s by Simon and Garfunkel. What is more “in-between” than the space between the waves and the beach? Being in a liminal space means being “in-between?” Ancient ballads are liminal, shifting with the centuries and the bards that sing them. I could add to it by singing, “Tell her to kindle a hearth warm and round…between the tall mountains and the sea sound.” I look to the northeast and see Mount Baker rising to 10K+, and to the west to the sun reflecting off Puget Sound. The alluvial plain of the Skagit River where I live is “in-between,” and has all the unmined mystery of liminal spaces.

Liminality is the grey areas of life in which we unlearn that which no longer serves us and crystalize new ways of living. The early Christian tradition called it “metagnosis,” in English “conversion.” But “conversion” has been coopted by certain religious strains of the tradition to mean less than what it really means. It’s more than just a decision to place one’s faith (whatever that is) in a historic personage. It is to commit oneself to living in a grey area where one is willing to unlearn so that one can come to truly know.

1This verse was taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarborough_Fair_(ballad)

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