“It would be difficult to exist in this time of global crisis and not feel caught between at least two worlds—the one we knew and the one to come. Our consciousness and that of future generations has been changed. We cannot put the genie back in the bottle.”
Those words by Richard Rohr, author and theologian, articulate something many of us are feeling. It has been several months (for lots of us) of being under “stay at home” orders or other restrictions so that the infection rates can be reduced and our health care systems can be likely to handle what comes in the long haul. The more that we hear about what is to come, the more caught between we can feel.
There is a word that describes this position. Not a common word, but one that grasps the essence of what lots of people are feeling. We are in liminal space. The word liminal comes from the Latin word ‘limen’, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and not knowing.
Richard Rohr addresses this directly: “This global pandemic we now face is an example of an immense, collective liminal space. The very vulnerability and openness of liminal space allows room for something genuinely new to happen. We are empty and receptive—erased tablets waiting for new words. Liminal space is where we are most teachable, often because we are most humbled. Liminality keeps us in an ongoing state of …calling so-called normalcy into creative question.”
I see this perspective as helpful in providing a framework for the days ahead. The most significant things we can do are to use this time to examine what opportunities this massive disruption of our “normal” can offer.
What about our personal normal of the past do we consider important and life-giving to ourselves and others in our immediate circle? What things would we like to modify, change significantly or eliminate?
Then there are the larger questions within our communities and country. This crisis has revealed (to some) and amplified (to others) some of the ways in which our country is not life-giving and nurturing to everyone. The obvious examples are these:
1) the disproportionately high infection and death rates among our African American, Latino, and indigenous groups
2) the high infection and death rates in long term care facilities – nursing homes, assist living facilities, etc.
3) the dire effects of lack of health care services, facilities and insurance among people in rural America as well as among the communities of color mentioned above.
As we view these things – among others – in this liminal space, what do we want to do about them? There is so much pressure to “get us back to normal” which is not going to happen quickly. In fact, it will never be the normal we had several months ago. There are ways in which that is good. To simply return to what was is not in the interest of many, many Americans.
We are having an extended time to look at how we will live, work, educate our children and ourselves, take care of the vulnerable, and make our country a more just and lifegiving place for all of our fellow citizens.
Liminal space is where all transformation takes place. We are on a threshold and we will be here for a while. How will we use this time and space to ponder the next phase for ourselves, the organizations of which we are a part, our communities, and our country?
Journaling is an incredible and flexible tool and has so much to offer during times like these. If you would like to explore ways to use journaling, check out my free online course that introduces several uses: https://carolbrusegar.com/journaling-explore-the-possibilities-with-my-free-ecourse/