Friday, April 18, 2014

Liminal Space

When a person stands at a threshold, a doorway, she has a choice: she can enter the house or turn her back and walk away. She can join the party or go home. When we stand at a threshold of a stage in our lives, we have no choice--we much enter the next stage. Oh, there are always the exceptions--the 50 year old matron plays the adolescent flirt; the 45 year old man who buys the red Porsche Carrera. But for most of us, willing or not, pass through those thresholds, moving from baby, to toddler, to student to teenager and to adulthood.

At the Meeman Center the other night, the group assembled discussed Place Walk by Naguib Mahfouz. The professor leading the group reiterated the setting of the novel in liminal space: in the family at the center of the story, two sons and two daughters were moving to adulthood. Egypt, the setting for the novel was itself in liminal space: on the verge of independence. It is a coming of age story for the young people and for the country.

The professor had invited four Rhodes seniors who had studied the book with him this semester to attend and share their insights and perspectives on the novel. These students were in liminal space: in 26 days they would graduate from Rhodes. The professor emphasized their place on this threshold.

I looked around the table at the participants. We, too, were in liminal space. We are all on the verge of old age.

Few write of this liminal space, this coming of age, of old age. It is ignored, just as the old in our culture are ignored. We celebrate youth and energy. We ignore the wisdom and creativity that comes with age and the time to reflect and explore.

The liminal space between adolesence and adulthood is open, wide, bright, full of possibilities. The liminal space at the other end of adulthood, that between robust adulthood and old age is closed, narrow, dark with diminishing possiblities. 

Old ages is a time of loss--of health, of firends, of ability, of agility, of mind and finally of life itself.
I stand at that threshold. I cannot turn away, say “No, this is a door I choose not to enter.” I do not have a choice. The door is there and I must enter.

I want to be able to choose, to embrace what life remains: to embrace change, to embrace creativity, to embrace beauty. I do not want to become like so many old women I know. These bitter women full of resentment, anger. These women who impede change. I do not want to cling to a past that no longer exists, that is no longer possible.

I want finally to go with joy through the final threshold, into that good night.

April 15, 2014