Cat sitting staring.

The Liminal

Indeed the intimation of a something more, a beyond the horizon, belongs to the very nature of consciousness...The existential structure of human life is radically, irreducibly liminal...[which means] We are never quite there, we are always and deviously on the verge of being there.

Philip Wheelwright (1968)

We are relatively very sensitive to any changes on the horizon. This is known as the 'Moon Illusion', one consequence of which is that the moon appear larger at lower elevations. Such sensitivity is for a very good reason: danger emanates from the horizon, and it is also where prey may be outwitted. Along the horizon we can detect tiny changes at great distances. Detecting changes is what the comparator model of consciousness does. We have a model of our environment which allows us to compare that model with the latest information from our senses. The model is our world; this world; the only world there is. It is a model completely surrounded by ‘we know not what’. Our ontological margin stands at this boundary, this is the liminal to which Wheelwright refers: where the unknown waits to become the known.


The Arctic Fox, which was featured on the ‘Other’ page, making its first appearance to me on the horizon of the Latrbjorg peninsular in north-west Iceland. The quote is taken from The Burning Fountain, Indiana University Press, p. 18. Wheelwright is concerned with the nature of poetry. This nature he sees as essentially being about the boundary between what we know, and that to which the poet can introduce us.


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