dimanche 6 janvier 2013
RITUALS AND THE DISAPPEARANCE OF LIMINALITY : JANUARY 2013
It was on the first few days of a fresh New Year in la Habana, when someone introduced me to Augusto Monterroso and the line, which hangs in my memory like a pleasant fragrance.
Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí.
When I woke up (he or she), the Dinosaur was still there.
I am in another continent preparing for a journey to the Indians of North America.
When I woke up, The Contentment was still there.
Liminality is a term we use a lot in Anthropology, a concept very helpful in explaining many of life’s constantly changing situations.
The transitional period or phase of a rite of passage, during which the participant lacks social status or rank, remains anonymous.
The concept of liminality was first developed in the early 20th century by anthropologist Arnold van Gennep and later taken up by Victor Turner. More recently, usage of the term has broadened to describe political and cultural change as well as rituals. During liminal periods of all kinds, social hierarchies may be reversed or temporarily dissolved, continuity of tradition may become uncertain, and future outcomes once taken for granted may be thrown into doubt. The dissolution of order during liminality creates a fluid, malleable situation that enables new institutions and customs to become established. The term has also passed into popular usage, where it is applied much more broadly, undermining its significance to some extent.
I have been aware of Liminality from an earlier stage: Jewish, Brown Skinned, White Continent, unsure of future or career. Then I discovered travel that is a perfect place for a liminal person! You are neither there nor here. I love Airports and their lounges to this day. You are anonymous, you don't belong to the country where the airport is but you are comfortable in the lounge of that airport.
Going through education in four different countries and then returning to more, I am always aware, acutely, when a liminal situation presents itself. And it takes time to resolve.
Fortunately just a matter of days rather than longer periods as is customary in many other people’s lives.
This year I have been waiting for, as predicted by the Blind Astrologer of Madras. But I was not prepared for the strength of liminality of such a situation. I sought the counsel of some long lost friends and other lovers, but they couldn't help me as they were mired on their own myopic worlds, possibly resolving their own Liminality!
When I teach Anthropology at the University of Havana, I stress and talk about Rites du passage and Liminality (grateful for Professor Ronnie Frankenberg who taught me this) and the students ask me: How can we minimalize the trauma of Liminal Period?
I sought the American Indians for an answer, and they had the answer.
When you think about it, after all life changing liminal periods such as Puberty, Marriage and Birth and Death are accompanied by rituals.
As are the modern Graduations, Promotions etc.
We have forgotten much of our rituals since the Revolution, I told the students because liminality in the society had changed dramatically. And for us as individuals we all have identified rituals that are suitable to our lives and our personalities.
No point for me during this liminal period to resort to rituals belonging to any other culture or any other personality other than my own.
The market was busy, fresh fish was available, as were organic grown vegetables and fruits. Bar in French or Bass in English is a white fish. You buy the fish and they fillet it for you.
Invite some friends, get the champagne ready.
Put in a call to my sister in Miami, who gave me advice on preparations adding that coconut milk and mild green curry would be an addition to the taste.
Fresh fillet of fish wrapped in aluminium foil, along with multitudes of vegetables; a ratatouille prepared of the morning’s vegetables…
Setting of the table, selection of cutlery, glasses and plates. Candles.
I know in my heart that this is a ritual that is close to my heart having done this many a time, after coming of age in Australia. In Baracoa it was almost a daily ritual, where preparing and drinking Cuba Libre was more often an event than formal dinners.
As if the mist was clearing out of a forgotten memory, as the evening progressed, my mind became calmer and the anxiety of the liminality began disappearing.
When I woke up this morning, I remembered Augusto Monterosso and said to myself:
When I woke up, my old self of content and happiness was still there.