Fri Jan 29, 2021
When I was studying Anthropology a few decades ago, I would often come across the concept of liminality. It is a fascinating concept that runs parallel to ideas of limbo or purgatory, but with perhaps a more academic context.
As liminality has both spatial and temporal dimensions, it is not surprising that moody millennials have adopted the idea of liminal spaces as an aesthetic style. But it is the temporal dimension - a rite of passage - that is particularly resonant when applied to our current shared liminal experience as a society.
It is this unsettling transition that has overshadowed the birth of 2021 with a sense of foreboding as we cradle this fragile newborn year and wonder if it will grow into a beautiful little being, or a grotesque and misshapen infant.
But it is the jarring juxtaposition that troubles me, like golden sunshine on a killing field, of a current state of affairs that seems… really good.
Our neighbours to the south have finally voted the bully off the island.
We were vacationing in San Diego on the night Trump won the election in 2016. I’ll never forget the shocked silence that fell over San Diego on election night. All we heard was one lone voice, crying out in anguish into the darkness: “I can’t live here anymore!” Well, after four long years, you can finally go home, my sad American friend.
Vaccines have been approved and are rolling out as you read this. If all goes to plan, everyone who wants the shot should be sorted by September. Those super-spreader variants out of the UK and South Africa sound pretty bad, but there’s no sense in worrying about it right now. I realize that’s probably what people were saying about Wuhan in January last year, so don’t quote me on that.
Just about every business that relies on public traffic and patronage has been absolutely gutted. The Canadian government, however, has been more generous than most with injecting stimulus money into Canadian businesses. The provincial government also sent every person in BC a $500 “recovery benefit” cheque. Groceries for those who are struggling, a bonus Christmas present for others more fortunate.
Unless you’re rich, in which case, you didn’t get anything.
But not to worry, you can always charter a plane to the Yukon and steal the COVID-19 vaccine set aside for indigenous elders. This actually happened by the way. In the interests of keeping this post somewhat family friendly, let’s just call these guys “royal douchebags”, and leave it at that.
If outright thievery isn’t your style, you could just gloat over the performance of your investment portfolio. The stock market has never looked better - those Bulls just keep charging and there are no Bears in sight. Bitcoin jumped in value from $10,000 to $50,000 and analysts think most of those gains are going to stick. Kicking yourself for not buying Bitcoin when it was worth pennies has become a global pastime.
But it isn’t just early Bitcoin miners that are having a good time. The little guys are having a laugh too. The recent stock-market “manipulation” by a subReddit and the hedge-fund retaliation is a welcome indication that the traditional financial industry can’t keep tech-savvy millennials down forever. These kinds of “protests” are so much more impactful than Occupy Wall Street could ever be.
And, instead of endlessly tearing each other down online or scheduling neverending Zoom counselling sessions, people are banding together to perform virtual sea shanties. Bask in the camaraderie, the spirit of a seafaring adventure, the sharp snap of a flag in the breeze, the cry of seagulls, and the salty sea breeze (all virtual of course). If there is a better way to fight the covid blues, I don’t want to hear it. All I want to hear is that soon may the Wellerman come to bring us sugar, and tea, and rum.
Oh boy, if our past-selves from January 2020 could travel one year into the future, they would be completely baffled.
So overall, things have been…good. Which, naturally, has left me feeling paranoid and suspicious. And I’m not the only one. But why?
The prevailing consensus is that 2020 is best left in the rear-view mirror because it is to blame for every evil under the sun. But scapegoating a year is as silly as it sounds, considering a year has no agency. A “year” is nothing more than a culturally-agreed upon construction marking the passage of the sun.
And yet, for anything bad that happened last year, we just threw up our arms and said “that’s 2020 man”. Ryan Reynolds’ Match Ad on YouTube (which is funny as hell) is a perfect example of how ridiculous the personification of 2020 in our culture became. I really hope we can dispense with the 2021 memes and just live our lives under the “new normal” or whatever you want to call it.
The real problem, however, with any prevailing consensus is that it sweeps up all the outliers.
The reality is that for a few people, 2020 was the best year of their lives. For many, it was just boring. For some there were some really bad times. For others, the worst is yet to come. It’s okay if your experience doesn’t align with the zeitgeist of the time.
We all have to personally navigate through the liminal rite of passage that will ultimately bring us to a better place. Or, sadly, a worse place. Whether you feel beaten, confused, dazed, and alienated, or energized, elated, optimistic, and inspired - there is no right or wrong way to feel.
But tomorrow, the sun will rise.
2021 doesn’t care about you - it isn’t lurking through the fiery caves of hell waiting to pull you into everlasting torment. It isn’t a deus ex machina either. There will be good times. There will be bad times. But whatever comes, whatever destination you will arrive at this year - you’ve got this.
Everything is…? Well, that’s up to you.