Jan 7, 2016



I love to discover, run into, stumble upon, run across.... new words. 

Not new words in the literal sense, new words to me. Sometimes in a book, sometimes online when I'm reading posts on Medium, sometimes in a Charlie Rose interview on Bloomberg TV; I love new words. The possibilities, the etymology, the nuances, the use and misuse, so much going on with words. 

Words, they're tiny treasures. They are our everyday companions we take for granted; our voice, our prayers, our songs. Words, they help make sense of the mad scramble in our brains, our imagination, our passions, our angst, our everyday vocabulary that makes up homework, the emails to the boss, our favorite recipes. 

When was the last time you drew your grocery list ? 

Each word, each treasure, a tiny architecture of vowels and consonants representing perspectives, ideas, concepts, matter, people, places, etc.  in different lights, colors, rhythms and flavor. 

Their meanings fixed in centuries old books we know as dictionaries. And yes their meanings challenged: enlarged or subtracted depending on the word, the times, the politics, the agenda or intent. 

Yesterday I read about liminal space and it was the first time I'd seen, heard, and read the word liminal. First used in 1884, the word is from the latin word limen or threshold.  

Liminal means in between, in transition, not where you were, not where you're  going, but the time and space in between.  The space, physical or imagined, the space emotional or factual when you're in between the door you closed and the door you're about to open. Liminal space is a hallway real or imagined, in your head and in your heart, or both, where transit has to take place. Or at least it should. 

Liminal time or space is like wading in a physical or conceptual place.... on the brink or on threshold of something new or different. 

I love the word, the sound, its presence in a sentence, rightfully so it's a word that belongs in poems.  I like the way it looks on the page, the tall L 's repeating themselves, sentries guarding what's in-between   I like the mystery. And certainly in just my 2nd day acquaintance with this word, I like the vast array of interpretations, the use and abuse of the word. 

There is also much written about what to do and how to handle the time or the thinking or the challenge when you're in liminal space. Be curious, be bold, be alert, be open, be honest, be sure, be brave. 

Shortly after running across this word yesterday, I did a Google search and there a myriad of internet urls with definitions, books, white papers, blogs, self-help movements, videos, groups, etc. all centered around the idea of movement, of transition, of figuring out the destination or the outcome of transit and/or experience in liminal space or liminal time. 

I found a blog "LIMINALITY, The Space in Between", below is some of what the author shares on the ABOUT LINK. 

As for the name of the site, the word liminality comes from the Latin word “limen,” which means “threshold.” It was used by Arnold Van Gennep (1908) in his treatise on rites of passage to describe that place in between one social state and the next (for example, being single and being married). Victor Turner later expanded on this in his work on the Ndembu of Zambia, explaining that those in the liminal state (during a rite of passage) were neither here nor there, and in fact in between the structure of society.

This concept has since been defined in various ways to suit various fields of study, but I came across it while doing my MA thesis, a comparative study of the North American Indian trickster and the protagonist of the Korean “Tale of the Rabbit.” The trickster has a unique position in society, never staying in one place, always moving here or there, never really belonging to any one class or group—yet he is always able to penetrate the social structure at will, although he cannot remain there. The concept fascinated me, and I argued that it was one of the most important things Rabbit and the trickster had in common.

I chose “liminality” as the title of this site because, first of all, I like the way the word sounds. It really just glides off the tongue. More importantly, though, I feel that the idea of liminality applies to my life. As a Westerner in Asia, I am between two cultures, never fully belonging to one or the other, but belonging to both at the same time. As a translator, I occupy the place between languages, engaging in a simultaneous act of deconstruction and creation. And in terms of my faith, I struggle to be in the world but not of it—a citizen of a land I will never see in this lifetime, a wanderer for whom home is wherever I happen to be at the moment. Maybe this is why I was so fascinated with the concept of liminality, why it spoke so directly to me. And this is why I chose it as a symbol of my personal site. For a longer (5,000+ words) and more detailed discussion of liminality, you can read my essay entitled What is Liminality?