Liminality? Well, there’s a free sample!

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Leaking into the future

INTRO (Venkatesh Rao): Liminality is hard to navigate, and one can be forgiven for flailing gracelessly when attempting to do so. What makes me impatient though, is people not even recognizing liminality when it is all around them. People continuing to march into non-existent futures, like non-playable characters (NPCs) in video games making walking motions with noses pressed up against impenetrable walls. When there’s masses of such people all around, the liminal turns into the surreal. I made up a visualization to try and get at this sense of surreal mass obliviousness to liminality... (MORE)

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Liminality? Well, there’s a free sample!

EXCERPT (Venkatesh Rao): . . . A few years ago, I was challenged by a Twitter friend to explain liminality, and I came up with a thread in response that I think is still roughly right. But if I were asked today, I would gesture vaguely at the world around and say, “Liminality?… Well, there’s a free sample!”

Here’s the thread, it’s from 2017. I meant to turn it into an essay but never got around to it. Now it will probably turn into a chapter of my book project.

Pandemic conditions of course, are liminal as ####. They’re so liminal it’s obscene. In normal times, liminality is an elusive, uncanny feeling, only accessible with some searching (and possibly psychotropic aid) on the glitchy margins of manufactured normalcy. In a pandemic, we are learning, it punches you right in the gut whether you want to feel it or not. Even the most insensitive clods, apparently oblivious to the shifting moods and energies in the world, feel it.

We are living inside the, biggest, freshest sample of liminality pooped on to humanity by an indifferent universe in more than a century.

What is the feeling of liminality? For me it is a schizophrenic feeling. One part of me wants to just sit and soak in the experience, and write liminal poetry. Another part wants to make and pitch “strategic recovery” PowerPoint decks to prospective consulting clients.

Poetry or PowerPoints? Poignancy or pragmatism? Poiesis or praxis? That’s the liminality question.

The poetic side of me (yes I have one, screw you for wondering) wants to fully experience what we’re going through as deeply as I am capable of, without trying to “respond” to it. That requires a certain empty, reflective, stillness of mind, if not body.

The pragmatic part of me wants to rationally launch into a frenzy of cunning OODA-loop strategery, triggering a compounding temporal advantage with which to navigate the fraught risk environment we are headed for, on the other side of this liminal passage. That requires doing some of the hardest kinds of active thinking humans do... (MORE - details)

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