Uncertain words in uncertain spaces
Sitting with the discomfort in liminal spaces
Certain spaces have meanings. Feelings. Smells. Sounds. Those meanings vary and elicit different emotions and reactions. Some may bring the sense of fond memories, comfort, or peace. Others perhaps less so.
A rest stop after dark, a concrete stairwell, and the time after a breakup all bring forth as examples that feeling of uncertainty. As humans, we share common feelings and common reactions to those spaces. While it may feel uniquely individual, the immediate reactions, uncertainty, and fascinations with these spaces are very much a shared human experience. One of my personal favorite free image sites, Pixabay, has an entire category of images focused on lost places. Exploring these images, a fascinating way to spend some time, shows the shared interest in uncertainty and the hauntingly striking beauty of change.
Liminal spaces are a time of radical uncertainty where the foundational concepts of the way in which we’ve been living, and around which society is organized no longer make sense, states Samantha Earle. The temporary nature and incomplete feelings in those spaces shape our interactions with those spaces.
By definition, liminal is of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase or condition. It can also be the sensory threshold, being barely perceptible or capable of eliciting a response.
Discussions of liminal space work well in several conversations. Any time there is a collective uncertainty the concept typically applies. Climate change is an excellent example. Eric Holthaus discusses liminality with respect to climate change in the book, The Future Earth. Other major issues and widespread uncertainty may also apply in various forms - pandemics, gun violence, and similar needed transformations.
As a brief aside, The Future Earth is a fascinating look at the potential and future of our shared home. It provides a tidy roadmap for hope to create a livable future.
When I discuss this while teaching about climate change, the focus is both on the uncertainty and also the future possibilities. Liminal spaces and liminal time create a space for potentials and possibilities. Unfortunately, these can contain such great possibilities that they become frightening.
Collective uncertainty can be a powerful motivator. It can also do the opposite. Complexities enter the situation often in the form of disinformation and misinformation. The cognitive dissonance of this time enters when it seems like different people and different groups are living their own realities. Some appear to exist in their own realities that intersect infrequently with reality.
While we are in these uncertain times, perhaps we need to embrace that uncertainty. The potential. The change. Hopefully as we push forward collectively, we can change some of these times and shorten the time of uncertainty. In many cases, this can define our future - our failure or future to thrive. Perhaps we can create a better future.
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