The Otherized Renaissance of Liminal Spaces
So the year finally draws to an end, and the curtain falls on what has pretty much been a roller coaster ride for all of us. The SARS-CoV-2 has engendered conditions that are certainly novel in the history of humankind; undoubtedly an Otherized Renaissance of sorts. Bringing together two seemingly disparate words (Other and renaissance) would, at first glance, seem non-sensical and counter-intuitive. However, when we consider their individual meanings in the context of spatiotemporal liminality, or more specifically liminal spaces, we find that it indeed makes a lot of ‘sense’.
Liminal spaces are those places that beget and catalyse change – any form of change. They are those niches in the fabric of the space-time continuum where metamorphosis occurs. Your brain is a liminal space, changing and reconfiguring perceived information. As Kant was fond of philosophising, the real (Noumenal) world is that which one never experiences. Rather, one only ever experiences (and hence, understands) the unreal, Otherised, Phenomenal world that has been perceived through their imperfect senses and filtered by their brains. Furthermore, grounds of protest and movements – examples being the Pride and the BLM movements – are also liminal spaces, changing rigid institutions and conceptions of Žižekian ‘Ideology’.
The space occupied by this electronically published article is also one that is liminal. It begets change – a transformation of elementary machine code into one discernible by humans – through its very existence. And the writer of said article is himself trapped in this transformatory matrix, just like Kafka’s cockroach. His readers may demand of him facts and figures and proofs and whatnot, but all that this measly writer can put forth in front of them (whom he might, for the sake of subjective justification, call his un-capitalized other) for inspection are his egregiously “transformed tears (pleurs transformés)” (Cioran, “le mauvais demiurge” 131).
The SARS-CoV-2 virus has effectuated the creation of a similar liminal space, although in a much more expansive and global scale. Change has been a constant companion for the past year, affecting the way we go on about our lives. Our dynamic space has been changed and reduced; our workspace and knowledgespace have been reconfigured. We have been forced to embrace the infinite confines of the Internet, and our communication has also transformed into a virtual affair, more so than before. The Corona virus has taken the throne of the capitalized Other, bringing about massive changes in the way we, the meek subjects, conceptualise and realise the world. This elementary change in our modes of perception and meaning-making has in turn catapulted an almost revolutionary search for knowledge. The aged teacher might have had to learn how a certain application for teaching online works, the young student might have had to learn how to keep themself calm and composed through certain bouts of ‘no internet connectivity’.
On the last day of the year, a day of change, a liminal space on our calendars, it is imperative that we acknowledge the changes that COVID-19 has caused. Such an acknowledgement would help us understand and manage our surroundings better, and might even help us soothe our scalding Dasein (existence). Let us acknowledge this Otherized Renaissance of the liminal spaces we inhabit, and as Cioran remarks, let us acknowledge that:
Il est des nuits où l’avenir s’abolit, où de tous ses instants seul subsiste celui que nous choisirons pour n’être plus (There are nights when the future cancels out, when only one of all its moments subsists, the one we shall choose in order to exist no longer). (le mauvais démiurge 44; The New Gods 44)
Cioran, Emile M. le mauvais demiurge. Gallimard, 1979.
Cioran, Emile M. The New Gods. Translated by Richard Howard, University of Chicago Press, 2013.