In the movie Castaway, a frantically busy, high powered FedEx executive, Chuck Noland, played by Tom Hanks, is the sole survivor of a plane crash at sea and finds himself marooned on a desert island. No smartphone, no diary, no 24/7 lifestyle, no flash restaurants, no stock-market or work deadlines. No longer does he have endless appointments and meetings — no busyness, nothing.
In an instant his whole reality is gone and he finds himself in a totally alien place — A desert island wilderness. And he has absolutely no knowledge or skills or capacity to navigate this new reality.
Four years pass, and Chuck eventually acclimatises. He actually learns, not just to survive, but to thrive on his island. He is tanned and healthy and confident. His only companion is Wilson the volley-ball, with face painted on.
When eventually he is rescued and brought back into the never-ending busyness and stressfulness and sophistication of the modern world, he can’t cope. It’s like OUR modern world has now become the wilderness and he is continually bewildered about how to navigate the craziness of big-city life.
There are seasons in life where the known world we’ve lived in seems to end and we find ourselves in the wilderness — on a desert island as it were. And none of our skills and habits and coping mechanisms and maps work.
And we find ourselves deeply disoriented! It’s very stressful! It’s deeply disconcerting! It’s exhausting, because we need to learn how to survive, let alone thrive, from scratch. And often we’re not even sure how to go about that.
We become like Tom Hanks stranded on his remote island.
These sorts of times or places are called “Liminal” experiences.