Posts Tagged ‘liminality’

The Liminal Loop is about to lift off! This new anthology of eighteen international authors includes many voices of those addressing liminaity from their own experience, contexts and disciplines. The combined result is stunning. You may preorder your copy now by clicking here.

“As we enter this wilderness, this domain of the desert, we find it full of fearsome landscapes, wild beasts, and unanticipated peril. What previously seemed normal no longer works or has become irrelevant. Old tools become useless in the face of new challenges. Former ways of perceiving and understanding dissolve within a dream time that is replete with the most unusual and confounding cast of characters. Perplexing and paradoxical questions arise. Time and our sense of its passage become fluid. And yet, we also discover a realm of deep mystery, filled with its own consolations, strange beauty, sudden epiphanies and enchanted traveling companions.”

– Timothy Carson and Suzan Franck in The Liminal Loop

When a person attends a documentary film festival with the breadth of True/False it is 1) impossible to catch all the films, and 2) hard to rank them. They are hard to rank because they all deal with different subjects and contain very different backgrounds. But some do stand out. One did for me this year.

Island of Hungry Ghosts is the portrait of Christmas Island – off the coast of Australia – and the interweaving liminalities inside its coastline. The island itself has only recently been inhabited by humans, for only a century or so. Its very location lends itself to liminal status. But what happens there makes it even more so and director Gabrielle Brady will not let us miss it.

The migration of the red crabs is a phenomenon which is embraced and recognized by the whole island. Humans watch and even assist the great passage  of the crabs from land to sea and the laying of eggs. As the crabs continue their cyclical trek other things are happening. They bring a luster of timelessness to unfolding and cyclical creation. They have been here before us and will most likely be here after us.

The Chinese continue to assist the ghosts of their ancestors who never received a proper burial. The spirits are lost, caught in-between, souls that never received a proper send off. Many of the past immigrants came alone, leaving family behind, and became more or less indentured slaves, an involuntary permanent liminality from which they could not pass. Today their descendants strive to assist them on their way with prayers, rituals and chants.

Therapist Poh Lin Lee moved to the island to assist in providing counsel to the traumatized. Her clients are international immigrants to Australia who have been separated from their families and moved from one “dark” detention to center to another, Christmas island being one of them. She struggles to provide help as she watches the trauma inflicted by a cruel detention tear her clients down faster than she can help them heal. And eventually she comes to the conclusion that she can no longer be complicit in a system that does this to people and uses social workers and therapists to create the illusion that they are humane when they are not.

Crabs, unsettled spirits, and detainees. In transit. Stuck. Longing to be set free. Waiting to depart and arrive, to be connected – to the sea, to the place of the ancestors, to family and home wherever home can be. And we move with them in one way or another, if not through our own parallel experiences, then in the recesses of the heart, the place where we are most honest and lucid, the most conscious part of us where we know, deep down, that nothing is forever, everything changes, and the island hosts the fleeting and the forever at the same time.

Neither Here nor There - Cover ImageI am pleased to announce that the new anthology of liminality, Neither Here nor There: The Many Voices of Liminality, is now available for pre-order! This anthology of sixteen international authors has been in process for three years and has finally come into fruition. As the editor I chose all the contributors, edited their work,  and penned the Introduction, First Chapter and Conclusion. Barbara Brown Taylor has written a stunning Foreword.

Liminality is the in-between state of being, the transitional domain, between the known of ordinary life and the unknown of the future. That ambiguous state includes great disruption as well as the potential of deep transformation.

From Barbara Brown Taylor’s Foreword:

“You are holding a wondrous book in your hands, full of startling stories about people who accept the risks of engaging liminal space … I can ignore these liminal gifts as easily as anyone but, like the other authors in this book, I am convinced that they deserve my best attention, both for myself and for the life of the world. In all the ways that matter, they are the truest parts.”

And Brian McLaren’s endorsement:

“Timothy Carson has brought together an amazing array of diverse writers of uncommon skill to transport readers to a place they may never have been before, a space between familiar spaces and beyond the dualist mind.”

Please share the good news with all those who may not only find this book personally intriguing but also a helpful tool for study groups and classes.

I am pleased to announce that the new The Liminality Project web site has gone LIVE! We are in our infancy but already moving toward posting regular blogs, articles, and videos, interviews. Go find a go-to liminality bibliography and primer. And feel free to share with your friends.

Thank you!

Living at the Liminal Edge

Posted: March 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

Hello liminality fans! I was just interviewed on a podcast on, what else, liminality.

If you are interested click here!

What fun! On the other side of the pond Lutterworth Press of Cambridge, England is releasing the 2nd edition of Liminal Reality and Transformational Power. As a part of the release they interviewed me for their blog. You may catch some spelling differences between British English and American English! To read the interview click here.

Liminal Reality Cover

Sure, go ahead. You can call me Dr. Liminal if you like. It wouldn’t be the first time!

Liminal Reality Cover ArtI am so pleased that Lutterworth Press in Cambridge, England offered to publish a second edition of my book Liminal Reality and Transformational Power. It is customary in second editions to not only clean up the original manuscript in terms of relevancy and content but to write an additional chapter. That I did. I have wanted to write something about Liminality and War for the longest time because I believe it is a key concept that could reframe much of the current conversation about war, its aftermath and the reassimilation of warriors. This was the perfect opportunity. That topic now occupies the last chapter of the new edition. The release of the book is in April but if you care to you may pre-order it here.

When people voluntarily or involuntarily are thrust into a radical time of change, an event or passage that strips away the dependable structure,  anthropologists like Victor Turner described them as having passed into a “liminal” time. Liminal existence is defined by its “inbetweenness” – the sensation of free-floating, detached, all the balls in the air.

This liminal period can be ushered in by life changes – graduating from school, going through a divorce, entering the wilderness of widowhood, going through war, having a baby, passing through the middle passages of life, and experiencing a cultural rite of passage. But liminal existence also appears in the wake of tremendous disaster. The Oklahoma City bombing, the Twin Towers  and Pentagon attack on 9/11 and now the Joplin Tornado thrusts not only individuals but entire groups of people – like cities and even nations – into social liminality. It is a state of great dis-ease and disorientation, an inability to find familiar coordinates.

When my brother and I stood in the middle of the Joplin tornado kill zone and beheld the stripping of all familiar structures from our sight, we spoke of how strangely inbetween it felt. We, like everyone else, had become, in Victor Turner’s language, liminal beings. Not forever, but most surely for now. Where is something solid on which we may stand?

Today my brother texted me and said that he was finding a way to set up a new temporary base of operation for his work due to the destruction of his office building. And one of the reasons he gave was that he just needed to do something that seemed ordinary, normal, typical. And so we do. People are often surprised to hear that a new widowed person wants to get back to work. But that is not strange at all. We all seek out the touchstones of the familiar. And so it is following the Joplin tornado. This is one of the reasons that houses of worship will be well attended at first. Happy pastors will mistake this surge for a new spiritual awakening. That is not so. After about six weeks attendance will drop down to the pre-crisis levels as people emotionally adjust and return to their old patterns.

As we stood in line on Wednesday, seeking a permit to enter the disaster zone, we did so with many other persons seeking to do the same thing. The only reason they were in that line was that they had either lost a place to live or a business that they owned or in which they worked. We all had a shared liminality at that point. And because of it were bonded together in an unusual kind of way. We talked with others with unusual familiarity, having shared the same tragedy together. Victor Turner calls that new liminal sense of solidarity communitas. You find it all the time. People served in the military together and survived the same campaign. School mates traveled on the same team. And then there are the survivors of disasters or even common illness. There exists a solidarity of the liminal.

It takes a while to traverse the liminal passage. We certainly don’t want the state of being to become permanent, to become stuck there. The word, liminal, comes from the Latin, limens, which means threshold. We’ve crossed the threshold and are free-falling for a time. The encouraging thing is that there is more opportunity for transformation in that liminal space than anywhere else. I can become a new creature, if I allow it, that is.


For more on liminality see:

Limnal Reality and Transformational Power (University Press of America, 1997)