Threshold Times

Good morning from Melbourne! It’s getting a little cooler here as Autumn kicks in (or is it Winter already!?). I love this season, especially the beautiful autumn leaves everywhere. Walking each morning and evening in the nearby Edinburg Gardens with my lovely wife and our quirky pugalier is a highlight of my day.

Today begins another week in lockdown for us – our 6th week, I believe. There is talk of easing the restrictions … but who knows how long we will have to continue to bunker down. Other than missing connecting personally with family and friends, I have really enjoyed the gift of time that this coronavirus pandemic has forced on us. Time to be at home – less rushed, less travel, more cooking, and more time to read and reflect.

All sorts of questions emerge for me:

  1. I wonder what life will be like on the other side of this?
  2. Will we all simply go back to ‘normal’?
  3. OR will life be different? Interestingly, according to a recent survey, only 9% of Britons want to return to life as it was!
  4. What do I want to be different?
  5. What did we learn from this crisis?
  6. What new opportunities have emerged that need embracing from these turbulent times?
  7. What values do I desire to more firmly live out going forward?
  8. How will my relationships be different?
  9. How will my work (or study) life change, if at all?
  10. What new habits will I seek to reinforce?

In many ways, major life and societal interruptions (or disruptions!) like this can be times of significant transition. Could this even become a major threshold – for you, for me, and for all humanity? I sure hope so.

Four years ago today, I read about the concept of ‘threshold’ from Irish poet and author John O’Donohue. I copied his thoughts into my journal at the time and they became very significant for me. I was on the precipice of stepping out into an entirely new world (refer to my poem The Great Unknown and One Year On). As I read his words again this morning, I noted how true they are … and even more so for me today.

I share these thoughts with you below and I hope they may be insightful for you at this time. Is it time to walk through the wardrobe into a very different tomorrow? Is it time for you to cross the threshold?

To Cross The Thresholds Worthily: When A Great Moment Knocks On The Door Of Your Heart

It remains the dream of every life to realize itself, to reach out and lift oneself up to greater heights. A life that continues to remain on the safe side of its own habits and repetitions, that never engages with the risk of its own possibility, remains an unlived life. There is within each heart a hidden voice that calls out for freedom and creativity. We often linger for years in spaces that are too small and shabby for the grandeur of our spirit. Yet experience always remains faithful to us. If lived truthfully and generously, it will always guide us toward the real pastures.

Looking back along a life’s journey, you come to see how each of the central phases of your life began at a decisive threshold where you left one way of being and entered another. A threshold is not simply an accidental line that happens to separate one region from another. It is an intense frontier that divides a world of feeling from another. Often a threshold becomes clearly visible only once you have crossed it. Crossing can often mean the total loss of all you enjoyed while on the other side; it becomes a dividing line between the past and the future. More often than not the reason you cannot return to where you were is that you have changed; you are no longer the one who crossed over. It is interesting that when Jesus cured the blind man, he instructed him not to go back into the village. Having crossed the threshold into vision, his life was no longer to be lived in the constricted mode of blindness; new vision meant new pastures.

Today many people describe themselves as “being in transition.” In a culture governed by speed, this is to be expected, for the exterior rate of change is relentless. This “transition” can refer to relationships, work, and location; or more significantly, to the inner life and way of viewing the world. Yet the word transition seems to pale, functional, almost inadequate and impersonal, and does not have the same intensity or psychic weight as perhaps the word threshold evokes. The word threshold was related to the word thresh, which was the separation of the grain from the husk or straw when oats were flailed. It also includes the notions of entrance, crossing, border, and beginning. To cross a threshold is to leave behind the husk and arrive at the grain.

John O’Donohue

(To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings)

6 Replies to “Threshold Times”

  1. Wow, how timely! Thank you Mark!
    I have just retired after 58 years in the aviation industry. I can’t go back! .So where to now! Truly this is “an intense frontier that divides a world of feeling from another”
    “Crossing can often mean the total loss of all you enjoyed while on the other side!” How true! Hundreds of people I rubbed shoulders with locally and internationally are no longer part of my new daily routines!
    It’s a mix of anxiousness and anticipation! I know the past doesn’t equal the future, and that one door closes and a better one opens. Great one-liners!
    But more than that, to know that all that we have become allows us to cross the threshold to this exciting new world. And with the constant of a loving God at the centre of our lives, we know “all is well”.

    1. Good on you, Ray. Quite a liminal space for you with a BIG ending and some new beginnings as a result. Take time to reflect well and look after yourself. Good days ahead. Nice to hear from you.

  2. Hi Mark, I love this concept of ‘threshold’ you have raised, and the ideas of leaving behind, crossing into, and moving ahead that it evokes. It ties in somewhat with an idea I’ve been working on for a while around navigating the seasons of our lives.

    Further ideas to explore! :). Thanks!

    Robyn emailed your blog to me.

    1. Good on you, Adrian. Look forward to hearing more about your own thoughts and reflections! Thanks for your comments.

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