pen rainbow

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday—Have a Postliminal Week!


Celebrating Rites of Passage

Celebrating at Walt Disney World
Preliminal:  Detachment
Liminal:  Transition
Postliminal:  New Identity


The older we get, the more we experience rites of passage.  When we are young, these traditional milestones are often recognized by formal coming of age events.  A Bar or Bat Mitzvah, a QuinceaƱera party, or a high school graduation all mark transitions from childhood to a more formal adult social status.

So, when does a person become fully adult?  Most people would agree that a person is recognized in society as an adult when they are fully independent, both financially and in terms of managing basic life decisions.  But, the process does not happen overnight, and the transitional stage is known as liminality.  

"Liminal" comes from the Latin root, limin-, meaning "threshold."  It is a period of disorientation and necessary ambiguity.  It can be applied to individual development as well as to social and cultural development.  We see cultural liminality when social norms are changing.  When the change is widespread, we see cultural revolutions such as the Civil Rights Movement, which lasted for 14 years (1954-1968) and led to the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Fair Housing Act in 1968, and Women's Suffrage, which lasted for 72 years (1848-1920) and led to ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

The concept can also be applied to periods of time and to places.  Twilight, for example, is a liminal period of time.  Equinoxes and solstices marking the seasonal changes are liminal times on the calendar.  Borders, disputed territories, crossroads, rivers, hotels and airports are all liminal places.  In mythology and storytelling, a spirit would be considered a liminal being.  There is even an application in theoretical math.  

Many of the postliminal (Type I) properties of the transformation-group C-algebra can be deduced from the dynamics of the transformation group (H, X).

Liminality can be applied to anything that is in a state of inbetween-ness.        

Liminality is an important step toward postliminal stability.  A rite of passage is complete when an individual or a society is recognized with a new identity.  Once the rite of passage has taken place, the individual (or the group) is stamped by the formative experience.  

Adult rites of passage continue throughout our lives, and on some level or another, we are always in a liminal state of transition as we move toward stabilizing various aspects of our lives.  Rites of passage are effective tools for managing long-term indecision.  When rites of passage are watered down, the significance is lessened, and the new identity/role is less certain.

Here's to weddings, graduations, the first day of high school, paying off the house, big birthdays, big moves, anniversaries, retirement, and first steps.  

Find something to celebrate today! 

Have a great week!