BE BRAVE,SEEK THE HONEST TRUTH, and set yourself free.
My name is Stefani Ruper, and I am a theorist of the human condition and scholar of the modern religious—or, the word I prefer is existential—landscape. Basically, I study what it means to be human.
I ended up like this because I began suffering from panic attacks about dying and the meaning of life when I was four years old. Trying to sleep at night meant beating my head into the mattress, tearing my hair out in little clumps, and springing out of bed and pacing around my room like a caged animal.
This experience catapulted me into a full-blown, life-long obsession with some of our biggest and toughest questions: who are we? Why are we here? Why do things like this happen to us, how do they affect us as individuals, and how do they affect our communities and nations?
I’ve spent decades in libraries and laboratories, travelling the world, and generally observing how life unfolds with this deeply existential perspective. Now with eleven years of training in both the sciences and the humanities, I am completing at PhD in the religion and science cohort of the University of Oxford in England, with a dissertation on the religious qualities of science.
I am also currently working on a book project, The Age of Uncertainty. In this project, I make the argument that even though we have more knowledge than ever before, we actually have less knowledge about the things that matter most. This is bad news because humans, and especially humans in the modern West, happen to be monstrously bad at managing uncertainty, leading to problems such as anxiety, a retreat to safe havens, defensiveness, and rage.
The thing is, uncertainty may feel like a curse, but it may actually be one of our greatest blessings in disguise. Uncertainty is honest. Fallibility is honest. Humility is honest. And with these things, we have the potential to learn and to grow. It is one of my primary goals in life to create the cultural change and tools people need to cope with uncertainty and learn how to have more intellectual humility, respectful dialogue, appreciation for empirical evidence, and, because of this, a more peaceful world.
Insofar as I am a scholar, I am only this because I believe the courage to ask questions is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and the planet. I am not just here as a thinker but as a human who has known real darkness, who has peered over the edge of her sanity, who has struggled to make sense of things, who has failed, who has felt broken, who has learned how to put pieces back together, and who believes the thing that will ultimately save us is our indominable will—our refusal to give up or go gently into any good night.
There was once a day when scholars were rock stars. They spoke with fire and passion, and they believed in nothing more than the diligent and unrelenting pursuit of truth for the sake of goodness, beauty, happiness, and freedom. Ideas were popular and powerful, and they were made all the more so by the vivacious personalities and energy of the people who developed them.
It would be an honor if you would join me in the quest to better know human nature, so that we may become the best possible versions of ourselves. You can read some things I have written here, and can listen to or watch Naked Humanity. You can join in the discussion, ask questions, and make comments on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, or subscribe to occasional email updates.
With fire and love,