It’s not Criminal to be Liminal.
I’d never heard the word “liminal” when I started writing “Wisdom@Work,” and then it seemed that life couldn’t be defined as anything but liminal (outlined in this blog post from November). Since then, it looks like the world caught a case of liminality, with profound questions now staring us in the face. What radical changes is Destiny calling us to undertake? What does this mythic moment signify?
Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy has characterized this moment as the “Great Turning” as we move to a model of life-sustaining sufficiency. Author Charles Eisenstein calls it a shift from the Age of Separation to the Age of Reunion. The late Joseph Campbell, with his Hero’s Journey lens, might suggest we’re in a societal rite of passage of massive proportions with our planet deeply embedded in the second phase of our three-act journey, a period marked by transition and liminality. Steve Bannon’s worldview is influenced by “The Fourth Turning,” a 1997 book that suggests we’re in the tragic fourth stage of a never-ending societal revolution. Erik Assadourian outlines in this article that maybe we need to consider this experience as a collective rite of passage. He wonders whether we’re shifting from global adolescence to adulthood.
I can’t help but wonder if our transition is from societal adulthood to elderhood, as this is a time of quieter simplicity and reflection, which is what later life is often meant to be.
Until the pandemic, for much of the world, our pockets were full, but our souls were empty. We were running on fumes. If there’s one thing we can all do as a means of ritualizing this liminal period, it is to take stock about what we’ve learned and do so with friends and family. We can also find ways to turn strangers into friends, perhaps asking these deeper questions that acknowledge the liminality we’ve all experienced together:
- What are my biggest lessons from this period?
- How will I live my life differently as a result of this experience?
- Who are the people, the tribes, I can connect with to create a global rite of passage?
A rite of passage has three distinct eras: the severance from the past, the liminal threshold period of transformation, and the reentering to society in a new role benefited by the wisdom one has learned on this journey.
Let’s hope we don’t get stuck in a never-ending second era in which we don’t learn any lessons and just keep repeating our mistakes from the past.