A Cat’s-Eye View of Liminal Space

Tuesday the cat loves to test my understanding of liminal space.

“Check it out! I’m in a liminal space! Again!”

The word “liminal”comes from the Latin word “limen,” which means “threshhold.” Liminal space has evolved to describe a place, time, idea or event balanced on the fulcrum of imminent change.

The space can be physical or metaphysical; a tunnel between two buildings is a liminal space, but so is the space between the acceptance of a new belief and rejection of the original.

Liminal spaces make Loki nervous. They remind him of Schrödinger’s cat.

Tuesday is somewhat heavy-handed when it comes to liminal space demonstrations. Every door, be it full-size or cupboard-size, is an opportunity to instruct the humans in her family. She loves to pose half-in, half-out, and becomes frustrated when we insist she pick a side, because after all, that isn’t the POINT.

Historically, liminal space was a period within a ritual when an initiate is neither one thing or the other; an example of this is the rite of passage from childhood to adulthood, first described by Arnold van Gennep. He identified the following three stages: separation from parents, or ‘death of childhood;’ the passing of a test to prove the initiate is worthy of the prize of adulthood; and the ‘new birth’ as the initiate is welcomed back into society as a fully-fledged adult.

Terry Pratchett, one of my favorite authors and the developer of the Diskworld (a flat world that rests on the backs of four giant elephants, who balance on the shell of a giant, space-faring turtle), uses the “rite of passage” ritual in one of his rare non-Diskworld children’s books, NATION. Early on, the poor initiate discovers that although he has passed the test, and is worthy of full adult status, he will never experience the ‘new birth’ portion of the ritual. He is trapped in liminal space forever.

Not unlike Tuesday, or so she would have us believe.


Author: Heather LaVonne Jensen

My labels: Writer, Metalsmith, Wife, Mother, Latter-Day-Saint

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