A foot in both worlds…

Straddling borders…standing with one foot in each of two adjacent worlds.  Not an unfamiliar scenario, but one that’s been on my mind this past week as I’ve dealt with the reality of being forced to undergo the jury selection process here in Los Angeles.

As you may or may not know, when you’re called for jury service here, that doesn’t mean you’re automatically appointed to a jury — there are actually a few phases to endure along the way.

First, there’s the phase of simply calling in by phone each evening during your appointed week, to see if you need to actually go to the courthouse in person the following day or not.  Often, you’ll be told by the automated phone system that your presence isn’t even required.  If, like me, your devotion to performing your civic duty is not a burning and all-consuming one, and you have other things toward which you’d rather devote your time and energy, then the best thing you can hope for is that the week passes without your ever having to actually venture forth to the courthouse, and you can cross “jury duty requirements” off your list for another 12 months…

The jury selection process may keep you held in suspense all week long, your normal affairs consigned to a stagnant limbo as the days pass...
The jury selection process may keep you held in suspense all week long, your normal affairs consigned to a stagnant limbo as the days pass…

I’m a bit disheartened to report that this did not happen for me — after almost a full week of being relieved of the need to appear in the flesh, I was finally summoned forth to tread the actual, physical hallways of Justice.  Really early in the morning, too!  I suppose that since the wheels of Justice turn so slowly, they do need to get an early start, but jeez…

So but anyway, the next phase of the process is attending for real…at which point, you find yourself herded into a large waiting room with a bunch of other people in the exact same situation as you, all of you milling about like a bunch of corralled, free-range humans, waiting for your name to be called so you can be ushered to a specific courtroom for testing of your suitability to serve as a juror for a specific trial.  As with the calling-in phase, there’s a chance that you’ll while away the entire day without your name ever being called, and then you get to have a court official sign your paperwork and send you home, free from jury duty concerns for a full, glorious year…

This is a clock.  It is in the Old Parliament House in Canberra.  You will likely not be there looking at this particular clock if called for jury duty, but you will spend a great deal of time staring at a similar chronometric measuring device wherever you are (and possibly cursing at it with increasingly prolific vigor as the day drags on)...
This is a clock. It is in the Old Parliament House in Canberra. You will likely not be there looking at this particular clock if called for jury duty, but you will spend a great deal of time staring at a similar chronometric measuring device wherever you are (and possibly cursing at it with increasingly prolific vigor as the day drags on)…

Again, it is not without some sorrow that I reveal to you that I did not end up skating completely free in such fashion — my name was called after a few hours, and I did have to shuffle along to a specific courtroom, etc.  But — and here’s the extra-frustrating part — we ran out of time for the day before a full jury had been selected.  So I have to go back in next week to take part as they resume the process.  Meaning…it’s all still up in the air for me.  Or, to put it another way, I have a foot in two adjacent worlds: I’m kind of not serving on a jury, and I kind of am.  It’s a case of both and neither being true all at the same time.

And as annoying as this particular example may be for me (and, I admit it: it is annoying), it does highlight a very interesting state of being: the one I mentioned above, where one straddles a border or dividing line of some sort…

So that wall is half in Scotland, and half out: a fascinating state of affairs!
So that wall is half in Scotland, and half out: a fascinating state of affairs!

Aside from the jury duty experience, I had another example of this in-between state fall into my lap unbidden: I returned home from my long day at the courthouse yesterday, and was struck with a sudden impulse to begin redressing my very long-standing deficiency of never having watched the show “Twin Peaks,” all episodes, in order, from start to finish.  Why I’ve never done this is too long a tale and not sufficiently interesting enough of one for me to get into it here, but the point is that I watched the 90-minute pilot last night to begin this adventure, and I was struck by how very much the show — made in 1990 — is a snapshot of a fleeting window of time that was caught between two decades.  It had technically left the ’80s behind, but the fashions and hairstyles in evidence throughout testify powerfully that the decade in question was still close enough in the rearview mirror that its presence still permeated every frame…and yet, there’s also this sense of new territories opening up, as daring filmmaker David Lynch turned his fabulously bent sensibilities to the medium of television, opening up new possibilities for the “smaller” medium, and for society along the way.  And i believe that TV in the present day can trace its evolution back to that moment in time pretty clearly, too…

"Twin Peaks" helped bring film sensibilities to television more permanently, changing the entertainment sphere along the way...and the show itself straddled two decades, and two media (was it a long film on TV...or a TV show created as if for the cinema...?).
“Twin Peaks” helped bring film sensibilities to television more permanently, changing the entertainment sphere along the way…and the show itself straddled two decades, and two media (was it a long film on TV…or a TV show created as if for the cinema…?).

This morning, while musing on these thoughts, I was struck with a memory from nowhere that also speaks to this straddling-of-borders thing…

When I was young, my family would at times make this lugubrious trek by car from our home in the northeastern U.S. down to Florida, to visit my grandparents.  We’d break the drive up over three days, as I recall it, and we got to know the highways and tunnels and landscapes of the intervening states a bit along the way.  I remember that my sister and I fell into this odd little game in which every time our car approached and then crossed a border separating two States, we — in the back seat of the station wagon — would try to quickly call out to our parents in the front, something along the lines of “You’re in Tennessee, but we’re still in Kentucky!!”  We tried to projectile vomit out the words so fast that while the sentence was hanging in the air in the car among us all, the words it conveyed were actually, for one split microsecond, true…although let’s be honest here, and admit that by the time we actually got the declaration out, the whole car and its long trail of exhaust were already well into that next state, and moving farther along at high speed…  Still, it was a fun game for us easily amused youngsters, and looking back, we were kind of perceptive to have been highlighting that odd state of affairs in which something (in this case, our nuclear family) was partway in one “zone” and partway in another.

And this state of being shows up all over the place if you look, especially in Occult thought.  For example, I wrote a blog post here not that long ago about how I feel I’m naturally crepuscular: I’m a being who thrives most in twilight, straddling day and night.  I invoked a few Deities who are considered “liminal,” or threshold entities who similarly straddle two or more worlds at borders — I definitely made reference to the Greek Witch-Goddess, Hecate, and to the Roman God with two faces, Janus, both of whom fit into this category.  I’ve also spoken of creatures out of mythology, such as Centaurs, person/horse fusions who straddle the worlds of humanity and the animal kingdom.  Folklore and mythology are bursting at the seams with other such hybrids, like Satyrs (goat-people), Werewolves (wolf-people), Minotaurs (bovine-people), Mermaids and Mermen (fish-people), and I could keep going until the next time I’m called for jury duty without pausing much for thought with this, as it’s just that rich a vein of material.

Astrology also offers up its border-straddling: consider Planets found on the Cusps of Signs or Houses.  In my own birth chart, the Planet Neptune rides essentially right on top of my Ascendant, meaning it has equal presence in my Twelfth and First Houses (the ones separated by the Ascendant in any chart), coloring both with its energies.  This arguably creates some tensions that may never be resolved (we can’t retroactively alter our births or our birth charts, so I’ll always have that natal Neptune rising on the eastern horizon, forever straddling those two Houses without truly being in either one), but it also lends a certain unique vibe all its own that helps make a border-straddler special in a way.  Maybe you, too, have one or more Planets on the Cusps of two different Signs or two separate Houses…

Tarot, too, harbors some references along these lines: consider if you will, my own personal favorite card, The Hanged Man…

The Hanged Man Card from the Tarot of the Sephiroth: one foot is literally in the surface world, and one is below the waves...
The Hanged Man Card from the Tarot of the Sephiroth: one foot is literally in the surface world, and one is below the waves…

The Tarot world generally associates the Hanged Man Card with the Element of Water, and sometimes, as it so happens, with the Planet Neptune, as well.  More to the point, though, the images of the Hanged Man provided by many decks show the character suspended above, or even partially submerged in, water — phrased another way, the Hanged Man can represent the state of straddling two different worlds, a partial occupant of each (i.e., the airy surface world and the watery sub-surface realm, or the conscious and the subconscious — he’s a living bridge connecting the two different spheres).  In Tarot, this state is usually recognized as an important and illuminating/enlightening one, but also generally a temporary one.  The idea is that the Hanged Man can’t have his head dunked under the surface of the water forever, or he’ll drown…but during that interval when he can safely hold his breath, and look out at the world through his watery field of vision, he can gain tremendous insights from the unfamiliar perspective.  I feel it’s often the card of the visionary, or of the visionary experience…

Think about all of that for a bit.  The straddling of worlds…the fleeting moment of border-crossing in which one occupies both sides of a dividing line…the liminal state, of being a dweller on a threshold…  We maybe can’t maintain such states in ongoing fashion here on this material plane of ours for very long, but they do provide some pretty magnificent learning and growing opportunities when one assumes them for even a comparatively short while.  And then, after learning things, one is free to return to more customary states of being, more firmly rooted in one world or another instead of in more than one at the same time.  I’m grateful to be learning things while suspended in this jury duty purgatory between two states (juror and not-juror)…and I’ll then also be happy to move on to more accustomed ways of being when this particular affair has concluded.

Meanwhile…happy weekend to all of you — may you all enjoy this way station between one week and another!

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