“If people would but do what they have to do, they would always find themselves ready for what came next.”*
In order to move from the present to the hopeful future of greater possibilities, individuals, organisations, and societies have to cross thresholds into liminal spaces – liminal space that is unfamiliar and disorientating. Because the future doesn’t exist, none of us can claim to be expert guides – we can be guides to one another though.
The first liminal space lies between judgement (our old ways of seeing an understanding) and openness (an ongoing attentiveness to the new and different and unfamiliar). We cry out in frustration, “I can’t do this” because our present ways of seeing include a too-small understanding of the self, which we daily reinforce with the familiar.
The second liminal space lies between cynicism (a basic distrust of others and their motives) and compassion (more than a feeling, compassion is a heart, soul, mind, and strength solidarity with others and appreciation of their world) which provokes action. We admit, “I feel nothing” because we have found the lingering effect of distrust to be numbness.
The third liminal space lies between fear (we imagine the worst happening when it could well be the best) and courage (which is not a lack of fear, but a compulsion to act with others). We protest, ” I cannot move,” because we feel frozen to the spot by the fear of what probably will not happen.
“I walk to challenge myself to be less afraid of the world.”**
These are the words of Matt Krause who set out on the quest of walking across Turkey at the slow speed of nine miles a day. When we walk slowly, our encounters and engagement are greater than if we find some way of moving fast – at the speed of a car nine miles are covered in around ten minutes, at the speed of a plane, in less than sixty seconds. When we move fast through life, we cannot experience life in a deep way. Krause took six months to cross Turkey.
The point of this is to see a world that others have told us could never be, which is when we’re at our most human, exploring the one life we have:
‘That’s the point – to do what you’re not supposed to do. To do it because it is overwhelming, because it is ridiculous.’^
When we journey together, we’re able to help one another to cross the thresholds, to be pilgrims through the liminal spaces. On his slow journey, Krause encountered a jandarma, a security point for outlying areas, which also provide resting points and journey advice. He was fed and the jandarma commander gave him the name of a friend in the next town, and so he set out on another nine miles. We all have something different to offer to one another, making us jandarma people for the journey we’re all taking, enabling us to overcome “I can’t do this,” “I feel nothing,” and, “I can’t move.”
Maybe the slow journey is the most empowering journey of all.
(*George MacDonald, quote in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer, 17/6/16.)
(**Matt Krause, quoted in Chris Guillebeau’s The Happiness of Pursuit.)
(^From Chris Guillebeau’s The Happiness of Pursuit.)