I am writing this on the winter solstice. At 5.44am Eastern Standard Time I stood on a porch in Vermont and watched the sky. Nothing to discern that was tangible. But somewhere at ancient sites light passed over etched rock. Over millennia, ancient people such as those once here on the banks of the Connecticut River, marked a transition. The science is there for the shortest day. But what emerges for me is a search for absolute acuteness: that nano point where some thing changes, and every thing changes. So, I am excited by liminality.
At a time which celebrates fuzziness and mergings and convergence I am also intrigued by that absolute movement from one stage to another, one which finesses so acutely, it has a point.
My concept to celebrate comes out of social science, but is mediated by ethnography and anthropology, archaeology too in the tangible remainders of transition. My motherlode is "Rites of Passage" or "Les Rites du Passage" by the prehistorian and ethnographer, Arnold Van Gennep, published in 1909. When it was translated from French in the 1960s, it unleashed a torrent of new thinking. The British anthropologist Victor Turner (1920 - 1983) seized on the idea of "liminality." While in Van Gennup's better known thesis, we are all engaged in process: separation, transition, and reincorporation. It was the transitional that held Turner. So the potency of the edge of things, the not quite-ness, appears to be dwelling in the poetry of ambiguity, but it chimes with so much of science which dwells in the periphery, and the stunning space of almost-ness.
As Turner suggested: "Prophets and artists tend to be liminal and marginal people, "edgemen," who strive with a passionate sincerity to rid themselves of the clichés associated with status incumbency and role-playing and to enter into vital relations with other men in fact or imagination. In their productions we may catch glimpses of that unused evolutionary potential in mankind which has not yet been externalized and fixed in structure."