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Monday, December 25, 2023

Liminal time


I was feeling pretty out of it this morning. Getting back to Colorado in the midst of saying goodbye to my dad and after 2+ weeks off work and recovering from Covid, I just felt like nothing fit.

Yesterday I had a talk with a neighbor at Nyland, Bob, who often has insightful things to say about the community. He said that Nyland was designed to exist in a kind of liminal realm between disconnection and total unified following of an ideology. Some find it frustrating because they want to convince the others to follow the same approach.
Whether or not that is an accurate description of Nyland, the word "liminal" stuck with me, and after spending the morning sleeping longer than usual, watching "The Iron Giant" and generally feeling frustrated with my life, I let that word sink in. I'm in a kind of liminal time. And perhaps this is where the world is as well. I feel like we've entered the anthropocene era where we need to be responsible in a larger sense for the world. We can no longer have the luxury of imagining an "out there" where we can throw garbage to, where can leave people(s) behind to, etc. We need to have more comprehensive approaches to both nature and culture.
One of the last things my Dad said to me was an encouragement to find an entirely different kind of work. It's understandable, since I've often complained to him and others. I've often found the world of particle accelerators to be too small, too disconnected from the real problems of the world. And it can be too big at the same time: so many facilities, so many research problems to work on. And my company spreads itself thin at times and I can get put on projects I'm not so interested in and feel little sense of coherence. So this morning, I was again feeling the need to leave it all behind.
I'm sitting in my art studio again and feeling better about everything. I'm not going to leave it all behind. I like applying relativity theory to charged particles. I like understanding partial coherence of x-rays. I like finding humanistic approaches to integrate new methods of neural networks and Bayesian optimization to improve beamline functioning. And I like learning about x-ray and neutron scattering experiments that map out the tiny structures of our world. I can read about philosophy and climate in my spare time and perhaps at some point these will become bigger parts of my life.
I've gotten to where I am today by not leaving things behind. I've sat in liminal spaces and worked with them until they became more concrete. I can help build my community at Nyland as well as connect with Fairfield, Iowa and the TM movement. I can keep a good relationship with my younger brother even if he needs to separate himself from some of the family and I can keep trying to find an authentic relationship with my step-mom even if I expect to never fully succeed. And I can love my Dad while also not taking his advice.
I'm not sure this all hangs together except that accepting that one is in an in-between time does feel helpful. I've tried to not throw people or parts of myself away and to develop artistic and analytical tools to work with what I've been given. It sometimes feels like an impossible place to live, but it's also the place that a lot of the world finds itself in now. Trying to adjust our systems to prevent climate change, species loss and pollution. Israel and Palestine working off of completely different assumptions with poor leaders trying to impose overly simplistic solutions through violence. So we need to keep finding ways to work with what we actually have and find a peaceful attitude towards ourselves and the world from which to move forward.

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