scholar, philosopher, lover of life (i try)


My name is Stefani Ruper, and I study the existential crisis of our modern moment: our crippling anxiety, our aimlessness, our wrecked and aching howls into the void.

Why are we like this? Is there anything we can do about it?

I became a scholar of religion and philosophy 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.

Nowadays, after decades of work and research, I have found existential peace. I have learned how to throw off despair and to respond to the human condition productively, healthfully, joyfully, blissfully.

But there is much work left to be done! I continue to be embroiled in questions. I am specifically looking (via affect theory and existentialism) at how we experience what I call our embodied limitations, which include futility, imperfection, illness, loss, and death. And I ask: how do various elements of our culture such as religion and science influence that experience? How should they?

I have a BA in the Earth Sciences from Dartmouth College, a Master’s in Theology from the Boston University School of Theology, and a PhD in Religion & Theology  from the University of Oxford in England.

My debut book for scholarly audiences, Existential Power, will likely come out in 2022 or 2023.

Having the courage to ask questions is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and the planet.

What’s the point of scholarship? Maybe it sometimes seems esoteric, and removed from real life concerns.

But having the courage to ask questions is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and the planet. The big questions matter.

So I am here as a thinker. But most importantly I am here 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. I am here as someone who believes ideas are powerful and can either wreck or save us. I am here as someone who is committed to talking to and with one another,so that we may transform our lives and communities for the better.

It would be an honor if you would join me in the quest to better know ourselves and our world, 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,