Dancing at the Threshold

I have just changed the name of my blog to Dancing at the Threshold.  I think I am slowly getting a sense of what it is I am trying to do here. There’s a poem by Gregory Orr that I use with emails that goes like this:

To be alive: not just the carcass

But the spark.

That’s crudely put, but…

If we’re not supposed to dance,

Why  all this music?

For a long time the idea of the threshold has intrigued me.  My first meaningful encounter with it came from my interest in Trickster mythology.  One of the main characteristics of the Trickster in all the mythologies about him/her around the world is the idea that he is always on the move.  This resonated when I got a beginning understanding of some of the new physics which emphasizes the idea that everything is motion all the time.  Piet Hut of Princeton’s Institute of Advanced Studies puts it this way:  “There are no things. That’s right.  No thing exists, there are only actions.  We live in a world of verbs, and nouns are only shorthand for those verbs whose actions are sufficiently stationary to show some thing-like behavior.” Putting these two together it seems to me that the best verb of all may be “dance”.  But where is all this music that Orr refers to?  And then it dawned on me; the music is everywhere.  The variety of the music is as broad as all human experience.  Some music we like and some we don’t.  As I write this I can hear music coming from my front room.  And I can also hear the music of the traffic on the nearby highway.  I can hear the music of my wife clicking away on her computer as she answers email.  Then there is the music of the blank page that I referred to in my last post.  And then I realized that what we experience as blank or empty is the context for all the different kinds of music that exist.  And that’s when the threshold idea came back to me.  We are always dancing on the threshold between the infiniteness of possibilities and the “thing-like” world that we orient ourselves around.  When we, as the Buddhists might say, grasp the thing-like stuff the dance stops.  One last quote from an old Fred Astaire Ginger Rogers movie: “Pick yourself up.  Dust yourself off. And, start all over again.”  May I have this dance?

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14 Comments on “Dancing at the Threshold”

  1. Suzanne Says:

    Yes, YES, you may have this dance – this dance with the universe and all of us verbs within it. And I’m delighted that you’ve invited me to partake of it with you. Happy winter solstice, a day which is certainly on the threshold.

  2. Jennifer Selig Says:


    Love what you’re doing here. I appreciate the metaphor of starting the engine, and it seems this blog will be the perfect place for you to do so. Happy trails!


  3. Laurie Says:


    it occurs to me that to open your arms is to both let go and embrace at one and the same time – let’s dance!


  4. Randall Gates Says:

    Thanks Allen, a good and timely reminder that if i am not enjoying the dance it may be a good time to check and make sure i am not wearing someone else’s shoes…

    Happy holidays and a prosperous new year!

  5. Allen – how lovely and profound… just like you.
    Thank you for giving me another lens in which to look at life…

  6. Josh Says:

    Well, Allen, it looks like people are figuring out how to comment! (you can tell them to click the “comments” like a the bottom of the post). Nice one!

  7. Terence Brawley Says:

    Hey Allen,

    would love to have an ongoing discussion about this.

    My experience of this is is the unconscious flow that I feel of congruence or incongruence with my Self; my attachment to God, or as Lionel Corbett calls it in the Religious Function of Psyche, the God Archetype.

    A thought I had when reading this is that the threshold is a pause in the music; you’re never really sure where you’re going next.

    A corollary in poetry is the caesura — the pause which holds all the meaning, that unspoken meaning that rocks your soul.

    Thanks for including me.

    • allenkoehn Says:

      Terry – Thanks for your reply. I’m glad you notice the influence of Lionel. I am going to try and attach a summary that Lionel did of a book called “Non-Duality” by David Loy. I think you really like it. As to the idea of a “pause” I think that such pauses are really a part of the flow itself. Like the use of negative space for an artist. Looking forward to hearing from you. ak

  8. I can remember a piece of artwork that Becky made – like light breaking through the crack in a cosmic egg. I think that was a good image of a threshold, too – a place where all creation is vibrating (or verb-rating) with potential. Dancing at the Threshold is a good metaphor for that brilliant place of possibilities. Thank you for bringing it to us!


    • allenkoehn Says:

      Karen – Thanks for your response. The threshold image/metaphor is increasingly significant for me as I think that we all exist in an infinite flow of thresholds. The key is to notice. I’m glad you noticed. ak

  9. bob G. Says:

    We just got back from a week long trip to Mendocino and SF. — just got back to see you launch your Dance at the Threshold. Congratulations. How does it feel to “lay on words”? I know you have ample experience at the hands thing. I am glad to see that you took the leap into the blogosphere, testing the waters. I read the comments as well, which I guess is the feedback from the universe, kind of like an intelligent echo It seems you are standing on the edge of a great cyber chasm and singing/dancing/playing and listening for a reply (or none– which is also a reply). It reminds me of a line from a Robert Frost poem “He would cry out on life, that what it wants
    Is not its own love back in copy speech, But counter-love, original response.” And then this huge powerful animal blasts out of the waters and walks on. I think it will be wonderfully interesting to keep an eye on the waters.
    Bob G.

    • allenkoehn Says:

      Welcome home. I’ll take some credit for your going to Mendocino as a side effect of having had hands laid on. I’m glad you like the blog. And, yes, watching the waters is always good advice. So, are you open to being a “guest blogger”? Best to Susan and wishes for Merrys and Happys. allen

  10. allenkoehn Says:

    Jennifer – Always happy to have you on any journey. My latest feeling/thought??? re. threshold is that it isn’t even a place it is just the infinite unfolding. I am finding a difference between pausing and dancing. ak

  11. sally farley Says:

    Allen: Thanks for the verbal image — “dancing at the threshold”. The expereince of dancing reminds me of the “both/and” perspective that you often challenged us to gain. When I dance I am both grounding and rising. I imagine the threshold as that both/and place. Thanks for teaching me about it and continuing to remind me of it.

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