The Aporic Edge
In my inquiries, with others in my philosophy practice, and with my self in my journaling practice, a dispositional spectrum between bothersomeness and aliveness shows up.
On one side of the spectrum is bothersomeness, a phrase that Jill Nephew and MacLain Christie use with their inquiry platform, Lucidly. The art of inquiry is the art of becoming unbothered. On the other side of the spectrum is aliveness, a phrase Donald Winnicott uses to describe when one is vibing with their “true self” instead of coping with the façade of their “false self.” The art of inquiry is the art that affords vibing toward what makes you (and others) come alive.
You have existential dread and existential hope at the ends of the spectrum. Existential dread is a term existentialist philosophers use when wrestling with nihilism and having dizziness from staring into the void for too long. When you have existential dread, you are on the precipice of having an existential crisis. Existential hope is the term existential risk scholars use to describe having deep hope in the face of all risk. When you have existential hope, you are primed for existential bliss.
In the middle of the bothersomeness side of the spectrum is stuckness. This is the sense that one is in an intractable situation with their career, relationships, or knowing what to do with their life. The reaction to stuckness is coping, which manifests in doomscrolling, culture warring, or a myriad of indulgent behaviors, aka “bad habits.” In the middle of the aliveness side of the spectrum is insight-fullness, an embodied state of being full of insights. Being in this state is when “the daemon” visits, gifting you actuatable ideas. The response from insight-fullness is vibing, which manifests the good, true, and beautiful.
In the middle of the spectrum is what I call the “aporic edge.” In my inquiries, my inquiry partner is at their aporic edge when the only real thing that can come out of their mouth is some version of “I do not know.” Before this happens, the inquiry starts with conversational foreplay, small talk, and other pleasantries. I move toward getting a situational assessment surrounding their “existential knot,” a term I use to describe what is bothersome, which is nebulous, entangled with all sorts of thought loops and unpleasant emotions. I engage in deep listening, which means I am tracking their propositional content and somatically mapping what is happening in our bodies.
Once a sense of the contours of the knot is understood, a well-placed question brings my inquiry partner to their aporic edge. A “vibe shift” happens. It is palpable. Things slow down, with a pregnant pause, and we sink into source. We are at their aporic edge, where the inquiry really begins. The edge is where philosophical life begins as well. I love guiding people here. It is intimate and nourishing, with a realness uncommon in our persona-heavy culture.
I am getting better at bringing people to their aporic edge and into their aliveness.
I have opened more slots in my philosophy practice for new inquiry partners. I have opted to start people in the gift economy to see if we are mutually vibing. If we sense we could be ongoing inquiry partners, we can decide whether to have an ongoing relationship in the gift economy or market economy. To see if I have any openings, reply to this letter or email me at thestoa at protonmail dot com.
If you would like to get a visceral sense of the vibe of my practice, along with the movements that commonly occur, listen to this playlist.
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