Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Flashback: Liminal Space and Sacred Time

While I'm involved in another project, I am re-posting some of my favorite essays. This essay was originally posted on September 24, 2011. Last week I read a meditation by Richard Rohr on Liminal Space which prompted me to go back to my own essay on the topic. The event that I wrote about was My Favorite Poem, sponsored by the Birmingham Arts Journal. This September, I will have the privilege of reading a poem at that annual event.

(Alabama School of Fine Arts logo)
Liminality (from the Latin word līmen,meaning "a threshold") is a psychological, neurological, or metaphysical subjective state, conscious or unconscious, of being on the "threshold" of or between two different existential planes.
Psychologists call "liminal space" a place where boundaries dissolve a little and we stand there, on the threshold, getting ourselves ready to move across the limits of what we were into what we are to be. 

My wife and I had a wonderful evening last night as we listened to 16 people from various walks in life read at the annual "My Favorite Poem" poetry reading. The event was co-sponsored by the Birmingham Arts Journal and the Alabama School of Fine Arts. Local TV newsman Mike Royer was on hand as emcee, and did an outstanding job introducing each reader and helping the event to flow smoothly.

I have long considered poetry to be a sacred process and poems make available to us a body of sacred writing. It is a canon which has never been closed and which continuously arises to speak to the human condition. To sit and read a poem is to be open to a sacred time where life and mystery is celebrated. Even more important is the public nature of poetry.  Long before human communities were even literate, people gathered in public spaces and around fires to hear the sounds and the rhythms of that unique language of poetry.

Last night was such a time and I am grateful to Jim and Liz Reed of the Birmingham Arts Journal and to ASFA for creating that public arena for the reciting of poetry. I am also grateful to each of the readers who stood before us to read their favorite poem.

We heard stories of humanity that echoed the joys and sorrows, the struggles and triumphs of life.  There were light-hearted moments, there were occasions for laughter, and there were moments of somber reflection. We heard stories of war time, poverty, and family. We heard from poets who affirmed every aspect of life, each in his or her own unique style.

After the readings, there was a grand reception hosted by ASFA’s Creative Writing Department. Off to the side was the school’s art gallery which was open with installments from the Visual Arts students. My wife and I took the time to walk through the gallery to see the exhibits. Our daughter graduated from ASFA with a specialty in Visual Art, so we enjoyed seeing once again the creations of those high school students. As always, I was amazed at the creativity expressed in the sculptures and paintings within the gallery. It was yet another occasion to walk within that liminal space that gives us cause for wonder and hope.

All in all, the evening was a great celebration of creativity, life, love, longing, and community. It was a reminder of the importance of bringing people together to publicly set aside sacred time and liminal space to celebrate life together as we navigate this hopeful but unsure path.

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