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Archive for the ‘liminal’ Category

The erasure of boundaries — also, findings at the K/T boundary?

Monday, April 1st, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — Tolkien illuminates Arthur C Clarke, Robert DePalma may have made the discovery of a century or two, previous posts on borders and the liminal ]
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Arthur C Clarke, #3 of Clarke’s Three Laws:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Perhaps a bit facile.. when seen silhouetted against..

JRR Tolkien, quoted by John Garth in War in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, 1916 thus:

‘From the greatness of his wealth of metals and his powers of fire’ Melko constructs a host of ‘beasts like snakes and dragons of irresistible might that should overcreep the Encircling Hills and lap that plain and its fair city in flame and death’. The work of ‘smiths and sorcerers’, these forms violate the boundary between mythical monster and machine, between magic and technology.

That’s a DoubleQuote!

**

There’s a parallel, if greater, boundary violation Tolkien points us to in his essay On Fairy-Stories, where he writes of the Gospel that “this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation” and declares, “Legend and History have met and fused.”

That’s true alchemy here — a sacred marriage, hieros gamos..

**

Sacred marriage, too, is the topic of the 17th century predecessor of Tolkien’s work in fearful yet blessed spiritual fantasy, The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz (1616) — beautifully translated bv Ebenezer Foxcroft (1690), and richly annotated in John Warwick Montgomery’s Cross and Crucible: Johann Valentin Andreae (1586–1654) Phoenix of the Theologians.

Other books on magic / imagination worth considering:

  • Lee Siegel, Net of Magic: Wonders and Deceptions in India
  • Ioan Couliano, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance
  • Henry Corbin, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi
  • **

    Take a deep breath..

    **

    While we’re on boundaries, there quite possibly may have been a seismically major discovery relating to the K/T (Cretaceous / Tertiary, now renamed Paleogene) boundary on “The Day” itself:

  • Douglas Preston, The Day the Dinosaurs Died
  • .
    “When I saw that, I knew this wasn’t just any flood deposit,” DePalma said. “We weren’t just near the KT boundary—this whole site is the KT boundary!” From surveying and mapping the layers, DePalma hypothesized that a massive inland surge of water flooded a river valley and filled the low-lying area where we now stood, perhaps as a result of the KT-impact tsunami, which had roared across the proto-Gulf and up the Western Interior Seaway. As the water slowed and became slack, it deposited everything that had been caught up in its travels—the heaviest material first, up to whatever was floating on the surface. All of it was quickly entombed and preserved in the muck: dying and dead creatures, both marine and freshwater; plants, seeds, tree trunks, roots, cones, pine needles, flowers, and pollen; shells, bones, teeth, and eggs; tektites, shocked minerals, tiny diamonds, iridium-laden dust, ash, charcoal, and amber-smeared wood. As the sediments settled, blobs of glass rained into the mud, the largest first, then finer and finer bits, until grains sifted down like snow.

    “We have the whole KT event preserved in these sediments,” DePalma said. “With this deposit, we can chart what happened the day the Cretaceous died.”

    DePalma’s PNAS article:

  • Robert DePalma et al., Prelude to Extinction: a seismically induced onshore surge deposit at the KPg boundary, North Dakota
  • See also:

  • UC Berkeley, 66-million-year-old deathbed linked to dinosaur-killing meteor
  • Ryan F. Mandelbaum, Scientists Find Fossilized Fish That May Have Been Blasted by Debris From Asteroid That Ended the Dinosaur Age
  • **

    Earlier Zenpundit posts on liminality and borders, among them:

  • Liminality II: the serious part
  • Of border crossings, and the pilgrimage to Arbaeen in Karbala
  • Violence at three borders, naturally it’s a pattern
  • Borders, limina and unity
  • Borders as metaphors and membranes
  • McCabe and Melber, bright lines and fuzzy borders
  • Walls. Christianity & poetry. And nations, identities & borders
  • Limina, thresholds, more on spaces-between & their importance
  • with further references in:

  • The importance and impotence of language, #28 in the series
  • And another next, 26, mixed
  • Can you believe it? We’re at Chyrons & metaphors 19
  • The importance and impotence of language, #28 in the series

    Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameronmetaphor, that Owen Barfield thing that undergirds Tolkien, who gives us our hero myth at highest, truest pitch — see final section ]
    .

    One for the arc archive:

    There is not a word in the American lexicon for such gatherings—the semi-spontaneous assembly of people in the wake of tragedy, who are united by both grief and by anger, and whose public mourning serves to reaffirm their civic bond to one another. But we need such a word..

    That’s an important point.

    **

    Look, large events have — what do events do, transpired? no — eventuated, actuellement, actually, which is to say, right about now..

    From MTP 3/25/2019:

    Chuck Todd:

    At this point it seems pretty clear that, while politically Democrats have been perhaps, if not check-mated, a pretty touch check on the chess board here, politically..

    Chuck Todd:

    None of us have read the Mueller report. None of us have got a single complete sentence of the Mueller report.

    Jake Sherman:

    It’s certain that Democrats run the risk of beating this drum too loud collusion on the collusion thing. The collusion angle, politically, was the singular focus of this investigation. That’s why it started.

    Is this going to be like the last scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, buried in some warehouse in New Mexico?

    If they find something, a hundred of them jump on it — it’s the bandwagon effect ..

    The Beat, Ari Melber:

    Ari: Is Barr departing from those preedents?

    Preet:*****

    He [Mueller] punts to Congress, and then Bill Barr runs on the field, takes the ball, runa in for a touchdown for the President..\

    Holder:

    I think Preet was wrong there..

    Rossi:*****

    Using a football analogy, that’s what Preet did, I want to use a basketball analogy. We have a jump-ball, we’re giving it to Bill Barr, who’s taking the ball, he already decided the possession arrow..

    Preet, Holder, Rossi — a touch of Calvinball, one game becoming another?

    **

    Let’s take a break:

    Malcolm Gladwell, Thresholds of Violence

    Thresholds are — in Latin — limina. Here a shooter threshold, a limen — a red line which, having been crossed, now shifts towards the susceptible:

    The kid .. requires a finely elaborated script in order to carry out his attack .. : the effect of Harris and Klebold’s example was to make it possible for people with far higher thresholds — boys who would ordinarily never think of firing a weapon at their classmates — to join in the riot.

    The caption to the illustration heading Gladwell‘s piece reads:

    In the years since Columbine, school shootings changed; they became ritualized

    That’s what my piece on Tarrant as a follower of Breivik was about.

    Here too, from Gladwell, is a serpent that turns to bite its tail when SWAT arrives:

    I would detonate when people were fleeing, just like the Boston bombings, and blow them up too. Then my plans were to enter and throw Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs and destroy everyone and then when the swat comes I would destroy myself.

    **

    And serpentine sinuosity in the Mississippi at English Bend, the great river’s tail not quite bitten? Another border blurred, line receding…

    The plane took off to the north, over Lake Pontchartrain, and looped back toward New Orleans. We picked up the Mississippi at English Turn, the sharp bend that brings the river almost full circle. Then we continued to follow the water as it wound its way into Plaquemines Parish.

    Eh?

    The control of nature? Good luck with that.

    **

    Back to business — a rush of chyrons, with a couple of texts:

    Booker to Ari:

    I have had you on background in many of the rooms I’ve been in

    There must be a lot of thoughts about who the umpire should be ..
    the letter came from somebody who was already suspect and should have recused himself ..

    Booker:

    We’re seeing a lot of dots that seem to be directing us toward a real problem, a potential collusion that continues to seem tom be smoldering and that might result in a real fire..

    Let’s look at the fact pattern ..

    — that last is an interesting phrase —

    Just a couple more from Sen Cory Booker to Ari Melber, then we’ll take a break.

    Sen Booker:

    This is a sacred constitutional moment for us ..

    That’s an excellent quote***** for USian civil religion ..

    A call to creaate what King calls “a more beloved community”

    **

    Barfield on metaphor

    At a later stage in the evolution of consciousness, we find [the principle of living unity] operative in individual poets, enabling them . . . to intuit relationships which their fellows have forgotten-relationships which they must now express as metaphor. Reality, once self-evident, and therefore not conceptually experienced, but which can now only be reached by an effort of individual mind–this is what is contained in a true poetic metaphor; and every metaphor is “true” only in so far as it contains such a reality, or hints at it. The world, like Dionysus, is torn to pieces by pure intellect, but the poet is Zeus; he has swallowed the heart of the world; and he can reproduce it in a living body.

    See here the relationship with Tolkien? with poetry, with HipBone Games?

    **

    Out.

    And another next, 26, mixed

    Friday, March 22nd, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — running the gamut from Mike Pompeo a flailing, failing theologian, to ISIS, not that their theology is so great, ahem, but still around, with cat-herding visible unto the days of the grandkids ]
    .

    Credo quia absurdum? Or, getting the original quote right, credibile est, quia ineptum est? That’s no inept as to be believable?

    There’s actually a passage in Cicero’s Rhetoric for Herrennius that describes how to make objects of contemplation more memorable by choosing the most beautiful or ugly images as analogs / analogies to represent them:

    We ought, then, to set up images of a kind that can adhere longest in memory. And we shall do so if we establish similitudes as striking as possible; if we set up images that are not many or vague but active; if we assign to them exceptional beauty or singular ugliness; if we ornament some of them, as with crowns or purple cloaks, so that the similitude may be more distinct to us; or if we somehow disfigure them, as by introducing one stained with blood or soiled with mud and smeared with red paint, so that its form is more striking, or by assigning certain comic effects to our images, for that, too, will ensure our remembering them more readily.

    It may be that Tertullian — the Church Father who authored that phrase about believing something because it’s so incredible — was not so far in his thinking from Cicero — was accustomed to at least the concept of using the strangest, most strained analogies, and applied it to his contemplation of the unspeakable, unimaginable Godhead, since such disfigured analogies are both the most memorable and the least likely to be taken literally, and thus mistaken for the Reality to which they are intended to point.. but that’s pure speculation on my part.

    But I’m sorry, No. Mike Pompeo may have been first in his class at Annapolis, and I may have been far from first in my class at Oxford, but at least my studies were in Theology — and No.

    **

    Here’s one for the liminal collection:

    An island, you know, is something else. In a continent, the watersheds are important natural divisions, as are linguistic groupings and cultures. There’s arguably a cultural component of Brit-oriented Northern Irish, and they’re not enemy — but the naturalness of a united island Ireland seems pretty clear.

    Islands:

    History has time and again highlighted the importance of islands in establishing naval dominance.

    That’s from Darshana Baruah, SISTER ISLANDS IN THE INDIAN OCEAN REGION: LINKING THE ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR ISLANDS TO LA RÉUNION

    Through a ring of bases and naval presence on islands, the British essentially controlled the entry points into this crucial area. In the east it had Singapore and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, while Socotra and the port city of Aden provided access to the Red Sea and Bab-el Mandeb. With control of Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius, the Seychelles and, briefly, Madagascar, the empire turned the Indian Ocean into a “British Lake.” To consolidate its presence along the coast of Africa, the British Empire fought bloody wars to take control of Kenya, Uganda, and the island of Zanzibar. With these islands and coastal territories, the empire projected its power across the region and dominated the key chokepoints and shipping lines between Asia, Africa, and Europe.

    Bloody, note the bloody. And dominance, note the British dominance. I’m not sure that bloody dominance is quite so well-supported any more, but a little less Biriths dominance and Ireland might be a little less bloody.

    **

    Dan Nexon recommends a paper featuring an arc — yes, we’re collecting arcs — but not the MLK moral arc that may be long, but in the end “bends toward justice”..

    **

    JM Berger has been interviewed by Terry Gross — to be aired on Monday:

    Stay tuned!

    **

    All In, Chris Hayes:

    Unh.

    They’re [WH] basically blowing off a co-equal branch of government which gives a strong indication of how they plan to back-rush their way through anything damning from the Mueller report, when it comes.

    In fact, there is such a swarm of criminality, prosecutions and pleas around the President and his ever-moving dynamic vortex..

    A trial run, a warm-up inning..

    Y’know, Mueller report ridiculous, but I want to see it is vaguely reminiscent of credo quia absurdum, or th more accurate quote in my own translation, see above:

    That’s no inept as to be believable

    **

    I can’t find the Jon Meacham quote on ceremonial trolling, so here’s one from India:

    Rohit is to this series what trial ball is to gully cricket

    Twitter went ahead with its ceremonial trolling of Rohit soon after he was dismissed. It’s become a routine of late for the right-hander to perish cheaply and be the butt of jokes on social media.

    At least it’s a fun replacement, though for seriosity I’d have preferred the Meacham.

    **

    and btw:

    **

    D’oh.

    **

    Clint Watts @selectedwisdom:

    I really would like everyone to read that story ..

    The whole idea is, everybody around the world knows that you can hire companies to crack into any one of these endpoints —

    — and go through any of these communications ..

    If you want to feel your communications are safe, don’t worry about government surveillance, worry about corporate guys-for-hire that are hired by all these companies ..

    Here’s the article:

    A New Age of Warfare: How Internet Mercenaries Do Battle for Authoritarian Governments

    BTW another Clint quote from my day’s scan:

    If we were to go after Wikileaks, it could lead to massive information dumps of US secrets around the world ..

    In have the feeling I quoted an abbreviated version a while back, without that crucial “of US secrets” — good to have thee full version, in any case.

    **

    Sigh:

    Charles Lister, Trump Says ISIS Is Defeated. Reality Says Otherwise.

    The ISIS of the future could be just as bad if not bigger and worse than the one we watched dramatically expand in 2014. In Iraq, nearly 20,000 ISIS detainees currently lie in prison and tens of thousands more who are accused of having maintained ties to ISIS lie in squalid camps surrounded by hostile security forces. A further 20,000 Iraqi ISIS prisoners and family members currently in Syria look set to be transferred back to Iraq in the coming weeks, all of whom will surely meet a similar fate: prison or secured camps. If that were not bad enough news, tens of thousands of Iraqi children born under ISIS rule look set to remain stateless due to Baghdad’s continued refusal to recognize their ISIS-produced birth certificates or to produce Iraqi replacements. All told, that may amount to at least 100,000 people in Iraq with ties to ISIS whose bleak futures will undoubtedly fuel long-term radicalization.

    Enough.

    Can you believe it? We’re at Chyrons & metaphors 19

    Friday, March 8th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameronnuke is about as fierce a military metaphor as you can use, though bringing on Armageddon may surpass it, while being grilled can’t be nice, eh, Kirstjen Nielsen? — but for unabashed cliché wizardry in the dark arts is hard to beat. And much more ]
    .

    All in With Chris Hayes 3/6/2019:

    Harry Littman:

    It’s very kind of clock and dagger and ham handed, but just ham handed enough to be potentially a Rudi Giuliani signature move..

    **

    Rachel Maddow:

    possession of brains ..

    **

    The Atlantic:

    Will John Bolton Bring on Armageddon—Or Stave It Off?

    Bolton is a sovereigntist,” John Yoo told me. “He thinks the U.S. should not be bound by international organizations, and we should not be ceding our authority to the United Nations or NAFTA.” After the Cold War, “the U.S. tied itself down with multilateral institutions, primarily run by Europeans, to constrain our freedom of action—to tie down Gulliver.” Every time the United States joins an alliance, or consents to arbitration on equal terms with, say, Latvia or Guinea, one more rope is lashed over Gulliver’s limbs.

    **

    New Yorker:

    Morning Joe 3/7/2019

    /

    grilled

    **

    The Atlantic:

    California Is at War With the Trump White House
    Governor Gavin Newsom called President Trump’s border wall and immigrant bashing “a national disgrace.”

    From the moment Donald Trump took office, California has been ground zero for the resistance against him and his administration, in terms of both grassroots citizen activism and legal and administrative action by its Democratic-dominated state government. But since the inauguration of Governor Gavin Newsom in January, the Golden State has often seemed to be in a state of total war with the White House.

    At the same time, California’s once-mighty Republican Party—which gave the nation Earl Warren, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan—is at war with itself, and weaker than it’s been in decades. The GOP’s new state-Senate leader was once quoted as suggesting that California’s epic drought was divine punishment for abortion, and last weekend the party elected its first female and first Latina state chair, only after a bitter internecine fight that left its conservative wing enraged.

    ground zero, the resistance, a state of total war, at war with itself, divine punishment for abortion, a bitter internecine fight..

    **

    The Atlantic:

    A hideous DoubleQuote from Eliot Cohen, Socially Acceptable Anti-Semitism
    It is the religion of people too lazy to accept the complexity of reality.

    **

    The Atlantic:

    nuke, wizardry in the dark arts

    **

    How to Cheat at Xi Jinping Thought
    A newly mandatory app is eating up Chinese workers’ time—so they’re finding ways around it.

    The origin of the app has some obvious parallels to Cultural Revolution-era drives to study Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book. For example, the first two characters of the app’s logo are written in Mao’s calligraphic style. Mao once encouraged youths to study hard and make progress every day, while Xi has highlighted several times the importance of study in a digital era of media.

    **

    And this one’s for the liminal, borders and walls collection:

    When the Frontier Becomes the Wall
    What the border fight means for one of the nation’s most potent, and most violent, myths.

    n Election Day, 2018, residents of Nogales, Arizona, began to notice a single row of coiled razor wire growing across the top of the city’s border wall. The barrier has been a stark feature of the town’s urban landscape for more than twenty years, rolling up and over hilltops as it cleaves the American town from its larger, Mexican counterpart. But, in the weeks and months that followed, additional coils were gradually installed along the length of the fence by active-duty troops sent to the border by President Trump, giving residents the sense that they were living inside an occupied city. By February, concertina wire covered the wall from top to bottom, and the Nogales City Council passed a unanimous resolution calling for its removal. Such wire has only one purpose, the resolution declared—to harm or to kill. It is something “only found in a war, prison, or battle setting.”

    **

    Some final notes:

    Ali Velshi 3/7/2019:

    Jennifer Rubin:

    We’re going to see sort of what he does when he’s finally looking at years and years in prison, is he then kind of sober up, and decide well maybe I should be cooperating with these people after all, or does he just at this point go down for the count, and take whatever secrets he has with him..

    Hardball:

    Malcolm Nance:

    I would make it clear there are more chips in the bag of the Special Prosecutor

    All In:

    Eric Swalwell:

    As a former prosecutor, I think you’re seeing a white collar, white-washing sentence here [ .. ]

    We learned a lot about the Trump code, that people like Paul Manafort and others know the code, that Donald Trump speaks to them in the code that they’re supposed to talk to him. And when the lawyers saying words that mimic or parrot what Donald Trump is saying, it’s as if the fix is in, and Paul Manafort knows if he just keeps quiet, a pardon is coming his way [ .. ]

    I saw someone [DJT] who games the system ..

    Rachel Maddow:

    That was supposed to be the start of a whole new Paul Manafort, right? Coming clean, pleading guilty, admitting guilt on the charges on which they didn’t retry him, right? At that moment, when he decided to plead and become a cooperator, that was him joining Team USA .. joining Team USA, joining the prosecutors, admitting his guilt .. the cooperation aspect of Paul Manafort’s case is another fascinating curve-ball..

    team USA, curve-ball

    **

    And here’s another border and liminality header:

    Belfast Shows the Price of Brexit

    I took a guided tour of some of the scenes of the Troubles. The tour was led by a former IRA paramilitary, now working with an association of former prisoners partially subsidized by EU funds. A few hundred meters to the north, former Loyalist paramilitaries lead tours on their side of the defensive barrier that still separates predominantly Catholic from predominantly Protestant neighborhoods. The EU helps underwrite those tours, too.

    Limina, thresholds, more on spaces-between & their importance

    Sunday, March 3rd, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — from one thing to another — and it’s the gaps — the in-betweens — the leaps — the links — the bonds between them that truly matter ]
    .

    Blog-friend Bryan Alexander concludes his blog post Casualties of the future: college closures and queen sacrifices with a clip from Babylon 5. What exactly does that have to do with Admiral McRaven?

    **

    A difference between bricks and bricks

    That’s from near the top of Bryan‘s post.

    **

    Bryan, lately of Vermont and now at Georgetown, is our keenest observer of the higher educational future. He coined the term peak higher education in 2013 — like peak oil, but for education, right? — and has been tracking it since then. At some point, he added the notion of queen sacrifice — “A queen sacrifice is when a college or university cuts faculty, especially full-time professors, usually as part of shrinking or ending certain academic programs” — and has made at least sixty posts in which queens are sacrificed, and one on a knight or rook sacrifice? (sports). Bryan‘s latest post is Casualties of the future. In it, he writes:

    That academic phase hasn’t been clearly replaced yet. The new phase’s nature isn’t fully evident. Perhaps its outlines will become apparent after several years of change. I’ve speculated on what that next higher education phase might look like here and elsewhere. But for now, let’s consider the present as a moment in between those two phases. That’s our time, right in the midst of a switching period, a liminal space, marked by uncertainty and instability. We’re in a boundary zone.

    Okay: a gentleman scholar as wise as he is bearded — and that’s a considerable double-barreled compliment — sees fit to emphasize the liminal in his latest broadside on higher education and its current obsession with cutting arts and humanities programs and various faculty members — ahem, bringing new and far broader meaning, in fact, to the concept of cutting classes. And why?

    Why provide a graphic of brick wall(s) unless, somehow, the idea of breaks, gaps, thresholds, borders, leaps, in short the liminal, is of intrinsic importance?

    **

    Picking up on What does it mean to be a Canadian citizen? where we left off in Walls. Christianity & poetry. And nations, identities & borders, with the questions:

    Is citizenship a kind of subscription service, to be suspended and resumed as our needs change? Are countries competing service providers, their terms and conditions subject to the ebbs and flows of consumer preference? Edmund Burke long ago articulated an ambitious vision of society as a “partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” Does any of that still resonate? Or is it a bygone idea of a vanished age, dissolved in a globalized world?

    We can consider the cases of women from the US, UK and elsewhere who volunteered for ISIS and now wish to return home.

    **

    Here’s a paragraph to transition us smoothly:

    How easy should it be to give up your citizenship? In the era of Oswald, it could be difficult—like joining an especially selective monastic order that turns away aspirants until they kneel in the snow for a few days outside the monastery or consulate’s doors. Now a U.S. citizen can stop being American with a single visit to a consulate. (Most renounce not for ideological reasons but to avoid the complications of living as an American expatriate, subject to dual taxation and bureaucratic requirements far more onerous than for expatriates of almost any other country.)

    That’s from Graeme Wood, Don’t Strip ISIS Fighters of Citizenship

    See also:

  • Amarnath Amarasingam, Revoking Citizenship of ISIS Members is Not the Answer
  • Dan Byman, The wrong decision on Hoda Muthana
  • That’s a liminal issue, questions of citizenship and borders are liminal. And Bryan is talking liminality when he talks education.

    **

    Here’s a quick liminal zing from Abigail Tracy, in the title and subtitle of here Atlantic piece:

    I’d have been happy to include this in my chyrons and headers collection, but between the lines is too nicely liminal to miss.

    **

    A limen is a <threshold: it ‘s neither one thing nor the other, it’s in-between. And in-between is a time or state of transition, often tricky — think of the interregnum between the election of a President and his or her Inauguration — and often deeply human — we’re stuck with human nature, every one of us, which as Solzhenitsyn noted has a fault line in it more significant perhaps than even the fissure that separates our left and right cerebral hemispheres. Stunning us, he wrote:

    If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

    There’s liminality for you.

    **

    Here’s how Bryan ends his post:

    Babylon-5:

    Listen:

    There is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The war we fight is not against powers and principalities, it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender. The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain.

    The war we fight is not against powers and principalities — see my earlier post today on spiritual warfare. And The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation — the horror, the blessing of liminality.

    And Admiral McRaven:

    He too deals with the fight against chaos:

    SEAL training is the great equalizer: If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart — and that deep sense of being equalized by sand. tide, and fatigue, brings with it fine-grained humility and profound bonding with ones’ fellows.

    **

    Victor Turner was the anthropologist who made liminality the corner-stone of his great work, The Ritual Process — see how closely his ideas correspond with McRaven‘s SEAL training. Back in my early post on the topic here on ZP, I wrote:

    Basing his own work on van Gennep‘s account of rites of passage, Turner sees such rites as involving three phases: before, liminal, and after.

  • Before, you’re a civilian, after, you’re a Marine — but during, there’s an extraordinary moment when you’ve lost your civilian privileges, not yet earned your Marine status, and are less than nothing — as the drill sergeant constantly reminds you — and yet feel an intense solidarity with your fellows.
  • Before, you’re a novice, not yet “professed”, after, you’re a monk — but during, you lie prostrate on the paving stones of the abbey nave as you transition into lifelong vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
  • There are two things to note here. One is that liminality is a *humility* device, the other is that is creates a strong sense of bonding which Turner calls *communitas*: in one case, the Marine’s esprit de corps, in the other quite literally a monastic community. Part of what is so fascinating here is the (otherwise not necessarily obvious) insight that humility and community are closely related.

    **

    earlier Zenpundit posts on liminality and borders, among them:

  • Liminality II: the serious part
  • Of border crossings, and the pilgrimage to Arbaeen in Karbala
  • Violence at three borders, naturally it’s a pattern
  • Borders, limina and unity
  • Borders as metaphors and membranes
  • McCabe and Melber, bright lines and fuzzy borders
  • Walls. Christianity & poetry. And nations, identities & borders
  • But go back to that first post, Liminality II: the serious part, and read the whole thing. The story of the USS Topeka, SSN-754 alone is worth the effort..


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