Apr 30, 2020


“Liminality” is a fascinating and rich word, difficult to define or describe, that points to an unusual situation when you feel you outside the normal. The word comes from the Latin “limen,” a threshold. Imagine standing in a doorway between two rooms. You aren’t in either room and so you might feel slightly disoriented. Or picture yourself at a formal dinner, where everyone is dressed in gowns and black tie. If you are in your jeans and a tee shirt, you may feel like an outsider. You may be the liminal person in the group.

Liminality is a favorite term among students of religion and ritual, because powerful rituals usually seek liminality. You are not in normal time and space, and so maybe now extraordinary things can happen. Some say that the “veil is thin” in liminal circumstances, meaning that whatever separates us from the realm of the mysterious is no longer so thick and protective. You may dream more or have strong intuitions. You may go through a significant life passage—being in love in many ways is a liminal condition in which a significant relationship may develop.

These days of Covid-19 have a liminal feel to them. We are not in normal life, and we may long for a return to the familiar. But there may be benefits to this time.  The veil is thin. We are all out of balance and may be open to special influence and new ideas. That is, as long as we are not defended against the liminality.

For all of its tragedy and challenge and suffering, I suggest looking at this time not as a wasted interruption of the normal but as a positive time of transformation. Look at how the world is being affected: city dwellers are seeing stars for the first time, Venice canals are clearer, animals are coming out of their defensive hiding places. How are we transforming? How are we coming out of hiding?

Even though the majority may remain defended and only wait for a return to normal, you can use this time as an opportunity for expansion and growth. You can discover a lot about yourself in your isolation. You can be open to inspiring intuitions. You can feel what it’s like to be quiet and alone and intimate and not so busy. These could be important lessons for you, not to take literally but to insert into your routine, at least in subtle ways.

Maybe you shouldn’t waste this opportunity, this special moment of liminality, to go through a life change and see things differently and make some resolutions. We are a generation marked by this invasion of virus. It would be a shame if we saw it only as negative. Just as a person recently diagnosed with cancer has to see himself elected to be special and allow personal transformation to happen, we, too, have to be strong and imaginative. We, the generation of the corona, are not only cursed with this burden, we are blessed with its possibilities. Corona means crown. We wear a crown that represents our time, a high standing, power, authority, accomplishment. We are corona people given a rare opportunity to be transformed remarkably into caring, global, health-minded, generous, earth-loving people.

written by Thomas Moore

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