"The edge of things is a liminal space – a very sacred place where guardian angels are especially available and needed. The edge is a holy place, or as the Celts called it, “a thin place” and you have to be taught how to live there. To take your position on the spiritual edge of things is to learn how to move safely in and out, back and forth, across and return. It is a prophetic position, not a rebellious or antisocial one. When you live on the edge of anything with respect and honor, you are in a very auspicious position. You are free from its central seductions, but also free to hear its core message in very new and creative ways. When you are at the center of something, you usually confuse the essentials with the non-essentials, and get tied down by trivia, loyalty tests, and job security. Not much truth can happen there...."
Last night, Avant-garde artist and man of faith, Makoto Fujimura, spoke to several hundred college students at Belmont University in Nashville. Many of these students are artists and musicians. Fujimura, who has a great heart for nourishing and provoking young artists, used this moment to ignite vision for who they are called to be. He spoke to them of liminal spaces...places of tension, of threshold...places where the prophetic voice, the artistic voice, reside.
These are dangerous places, filled with struggle. Uncomfortable. But places of unique perspective; fertile with creativity. One who is courageous enough to live there can be a harbinger of truth.
"...Not an outsider throwing rocks, not a comfortable insider who defends the status quo, but one who lives precariously with two perspectives held tightly together—the faithful insider and the critical outsider at the same time. Not ensconced safely inside, but not so far outside as to lose compassion or understanding....The prophet must hold these perspectives in a loving and necessary creative tension..."
As an example, Mako pointed to Asher Lev, the protagonsit in Chaim Potok's My Name is Asher Lev. Lev is an observant Orthodox Jew AND an artist, compelled to speak truth, even when that truth is difficult. God has given him an important voice to both the artistic community and his Jewish community. But both are extremely uncomfortable with him. His prophetic voice will cost him the easy affection of the very ones served by his art. Thus it has always been.
Fujimura took things a step further by asserting that one of the points of art is to bring other people to liminal spaces of their own...places of reflection...places where they are slowed enough, provoked enough, to enter into their own wrestling with assumptions.
He closed the evening with excerpts from an essay by Catholic priest and contemplative, Richard Rohr. The essay is titled "On the Edge of the Inside: The Prophetic Position". It is brief, but potent. I strongly encourage you to read all of it. Just click on the title. All unattributed quotes in the post are from this essay.
"When you live on the edge of the inside, you will almost wish you were outside. Then you are merely an enemy, a pagan, a persona non grata, and can largely be ignored or written off. But if you are both inside and outside, you are the ultimate threat, the ultimate reformer, and the ultimate invitation."
*Painting: "Still Point Evening" by Makoto Fujimura, inspired by T.S. Eliot's The Four Quartets. The still point is also a liminal space. :) "At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is."