Our Aporia

Imagine, if you will (as if, these days, you need to imagine it at all) that you wake up one morning and find yourself propelled into a Franz Kafka novel, or into a painting by Salvador Dali or a mind-bending M.C. Escher print. What you would most likely experience is a state of aporia where nothing makes sense. Aporia might be translated as “puzzlement” or bewilderment, but perhaps “stupefaction” is the most accurate translation of the meaning of aporia.

Appropriately, Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s former finance minister, opens his history of the global finance system The Global Minotaur by describing our present aporia since the market meltdown of 2008,

“Nothing humanizes us like aporia — that state of intense puzzlement in which we find ourselves when our certainties fall to pieces; when suddenly we get caught in an impasse, at a loss to explain what our eyes can see, our fingers can touch, our ears can hear. At those moments, as our reason valiantly  struggles to fathom what the senses are reporting, our aporia humbles us and readies the prepared mind for previously unbearable truths. And when the aporia casts its net far and wide to ensnare the whole of humanity, we know we are at a very special moment in history. September 2008 was just such a moment.”

In other words, awakening to find oneself inside a Franz Kafka novel or a Salvador Dali painting. A sense of aporia is very much connected with the fact of chaotic transition, and of crisis in general. It’s a wonderful word.

Being Greek, Varoufakis has a fondness for referencing Greek mythology to illustrate some aspect or another of the labyrinthine ways of global capitalism and the global financial system (think also of “Dark Money” and “the Global Laundromat” as part of the Minotaur’s labyrinth). In one way, Varoufakis’s “global minotaur” also resembles Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi’s description of Goldman Sachs as the “great vampire squid” (“The Great American Bubble Machine“. The “great vampire squid” is an allusion to the mythical sea monster the Kraken).

When people talk about the new normal as “absurd” or “surreal”, what they are describing is that state of aporia, of feeling at a loss or having a sense of perplexity. Varoufakis thinks that this state of aporia is preparatory to the realisation of, or perhaps irruption of, new truth — a view that accords very well with Jean Gebser’s notion of the “irruption” of a new consciousness structure concurrent with “chaos” (or Varoufakis’s fellow economist, Peter Pogany, and his anticipation of “global system 3” emerging through mayhem and “havoc”).

Aporia is also the result of meeting with the Trickster figure, and much disinformation is deliberately designed to bring about a state of aporia. (Many of Trump’s supporters rationalise his mendacity and disinformation because they like that he’s “messing with their heads“).

It’s said that the word “panic” is derived from the name of the great god Pan, whose sudden and unexpected appearance in the wilderness could induce a state of “panic”. But the first response to the unexpected would be, at first, aporia — a bewilderment that then becomes a rout of the senses.

Apparently Pan loved to mess with people’s heads, too.



8 responses to “Our Aporia

  1. Steve Lavendusky says :

    “The imaginal is never more vivid than when we are connected with it instinctually. The world alive is of course animism; that this living world is divine and imaged by different Gods with attributes and characteristics is polytheistic pantheism. That fear, dread, horror are natural is wisdom. In Whitehead’s term “nature alive” means Pan, and panic flings open a door into this reality.

    James Hillmam

  2. abdulmonem says :

    Thank you Scott for keeping us busy to ponder the fate of this unhappy humanity. Aporia is the product of the shockwave. Puzzlement is god way of pushing the humans to find their way out. Imagination is a human tool and the divine story depiction is for the humans to take or leave. There is no compulsion in the divine cosmos, but the end is revealed to each party and left to them to choose what they want. A dialogue between god and his angels, in which god asked the angels, Do these humans worship you, in response they said no god but they worship the jinns,in whom they have very strong confidence. I do not know why I have this strong feeling to connect them to the forces of AI realm. This feeling becomes more embedded after reading. the pro and con debates in the link you posted. We read also in the quran how the humans and the jinns have enjoyed each other company and how they are called to transverse the sphere above them with the warning that their activities will not triumph. The blunder of wanting to colonize Mars, in line with the white man mission to colonize the earth. Reading the scientific discoveries made me more convinced that this book is not of Mahammad imgination but a divine revelation specially when I read the quran mention that god will show them the truth of sundering heaven from earth and about the expanding universe and the embryo development and the fission of the atom and what I mentioned above. It is time to get serious and make our stand toward this cosmos and the consciousness behind it and do not let the perverted mislead us and that there is a divine code to be remembered and revered. Life is a process of relations that need to be carried out in line with the code.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    Varoufakis’s book could accurately be described as a history of what Peter Pogany called “Global System 2” (GS2). Varoufakis thinks this global system ended in 2008 (and we are now in the state of “aporia”) and in much of the book he’s writing about the old order of GS2 in the past tense already.

    As yet, though, it’s not clear that he has a vision of what Pogany anticipates as “Global System 3” (GS3), but I’ve not yet finished reading the book all the way through.

  4. abdulmonem says :

    I do not know why Pogany reminds me always of Polanyi ,may be the music but the point I want to bring in the conversation is the distinction between tacit knowledge and explicit or the revelatory knowledge and the scholastic knowledge and the danger of separating one from the other and the problems which are issued as a result of such separation which often time pushes the later mode of knowledge to build its system on wrong premises. There are constants in the construction of our cosmos and our humanity Basic among them is the constant of change and the constant of the oneness of humanity that reflects the oneness of the one who has brought it and everything around and there is the constant of death. There are also the principles of truth ,justice, cooperation, compassion and service. Thus those who have built their system on race and perpetuity and linearity, on competition,exploitation, injustice, greed and excess are no wonder are facing all these crises which can not be solved without pursuing the right path, the divine code, which every human is aware of its nature because it is built in the human structure, no matter how hard the perverters try to ignore it or conceal it. The task is really hard but let us be hopeful that we can do it, if we pay honest attention to the hearing presence,the seeing presence, the knowing presence that is to be aware of his awareness.

  5. Scott Preston says :

    the old saying about “like a deer caught in the headlights” is also a reference to the condition of aporia. That might help illuminate its meaning.

    As to “deer caught in the headlights”, if you are that deer, you either quickly realise the truth about the lights or you continue to stand in the middle of the highway, dazzled or stupefied, waiting to get clobbered. That’s pretty much what Varoufakis wants to get at with his reference to “aporia”.

    • abdulmonem says :

      Yes Scott but we are not sure which road the deer will tread. Uncertainty engulf us from all sides. Abiding by the revelation is th only saver and that is also in the realm of the aporia.

  6. Scott Preston says :

    Varoufakis’s “Global Minotaur”, by the way, is the old god named Moloch or Baal.


    In the Sumerian The Epic of Gilgamesh Moloch appears as “The Bull of Heaven”, and again as “the Golden Calf” or Golden Bull in the Old Testament. The Minotaur of Greek myth is Moloch, who reappears also in Alan Ginsberg’s poem “Howl”.


    Blake’s Urizen is also Moloch.

    It’s ironic, then, that the bull appears as the symbol of Wall St. and as the hub of global finance.

    Varoufakis could have named his book “The Global Moloch” just as well, for the Minotaur and Moloch are the same. Once you understand the meaning of the one, you understand the meaning of the other.

    It was Moloch who demanded, as tribute, human sacrifice and the lives of the first born.

  7. abdulmonem says :

    It is telling how the false god has so many names but the only ome god has one name with many attributes, attributes that should not be mistaken for separate entities as some may stipulate. Howl is the agony of a tortured soul that can not keeps its mental feet steady in a rocking land. Meandering over the historical time can only tell us but one thing that is not to fall in the whole of the self that has lost its way. I can not do anything but to repeat my thank and appreciation to your commendable mission.

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