This is something I drafted for my DProf, which I probably won’t use, but for the purposes of my blog it seemed a good way to round out what I’ve been sharing over the last month or so about the liminal space. This is what I’ve been trying to do, over the last 16 years, to boost my own courage around entering the unknown, and hoping to inspire others to likewise muster their courage and metaphorically row into unknown waters.
I first entered the liminal space in 2002, when I left the safe bubble of my married, mortgaged existence and leaped into the unknown. It had been a terrifying prospect, as just about everybody I knew was living inside identical bubbles, and I had genuinely no idea what lay outside. However, in true Hero’s Journey style, my boldness was rewarded and mentors and allies soon showed up.
By the time I received my call to adventure, in 2004, I had learned to feel secure with insecurity, and was a total convert to the freedom of living outside the gilded cage of cultural conventionality. In drawing attention to myself through rowing oceans, as well as promoting my environmental message, I hoped to model this different way of living as a possibility for people who possibly felt constrained by the old paradigm, as I had, but didn’t see other viable options either among their peers or in the media.
I know for sure of at least a dozen who have followed my lead into the liminal space, and trust that there may be many more of which I am not aware.
At the same time, I have become aware that there are many people who are living as what Daniel Quinn would describe as “leavers”, rather than “takers”, meaning that they have left behind the conventional culture to experiment with ways of living more harmoniously with each other and with the environment. For a long while it seemed that, when they left society, they all but disappeared. They were not profiled in the media, which continued to disproportionately feature the affluent and materialistic. Hello! magazine is not too interested in capturing exclusive photographs of somebody’s eco-home and low-impact lifestyle.
In the last few years, more of these stories are now being told, with books such as The Moneyless Man, by Mark Boyle, the book and film by Low Impact Man, Colin Beavan, and the individuals featured in Happier People Healthier Planet, by Teresa Belton. There are also countless books about people stepping into liminal spaces spiritually, in search of greater purpose and fulfilment.
In one sense, it is good news that these stories are being told. In another sense, it could be seen as not such good news that these stories are still deemed sufficiently exotic to be worthy of a book deal. The needle still has a long way to move before these lifestyles are regarded as normal.
It has been important for me, in telling my story, to emphasise my own normality, and my vulnerability. I have taken pains to emphasise that my background was very conventional, that I had the option available to stay resident in the status quo, that I had to make deliberate choices, and that I found the choices scary. In doing so, I have tried to convey that it is fine and understandable to feel apprehensive, but that the risks of stepping into the liminal space are likely to be worthwhile.
In reality, we are all in a liminal space, whether or not we know it. As we move further into the anthropocene, in which man’s mark on the world is increasingly evident, we are in a time of transition of our own making. The rate of change has never been as fast as it is now. We wonder if it can continue at this pace, or if the exponential line of our progress will crest and collapse like an ocean wave. It cannot hurt to have our wits about us, our eyes open. No matter where we’re headed, it’s better not to sleepwalk there. That is one powerfully good thing to be said about the liminal places: nothing promotes alertness like venturing into the dark cave.
Maybe it’s fitting that this blog post comes out on Halloween, which before it was about costumes and candy was about warding off ghosts. What are the terrors that we are trying to ward off now?
Happy Halloween! (a phrase which has always seemed rather oxymoronic to me)