A poet named Nate Klug strikes to the heart in a recent Poetry Daily entry called Aporia:
Not little by little,
as concerto strings
or doctrines like
to think. No—skin
pulled taut around
jaw and fierce cheek,
seen from the side
in the sea of the bed:
that was her is there.
Okay — but what does it mean? Ask Wikipedia, and we learn the word Aporia is all but “untranslatable”: derived from two Greek words seemingly in opposition (“without” and “a passage”) and with an astonishingly complex mythological history.
This is the myth from which the word derives, according to an excerpted essay by post-structuralist Sarah Kofman:
Penia, the “child of poverty,” decides to forcefully impregnate herself with the inebriated Poros, the personification of plenty, who is always in opposition with aporia and thus defining aporia. The result of this union is Eros, who inherits the disparate characteristics of his parents (25). The perplexing aspect of the myth is revealed as one realizes that Penia is acting out of resourcefulness, a quality normally attributed to Poros, and Poros’ inaction reveals his own passivity, a poverty of agency or poros. Such a relationship intensely affects not only the context of aporia but its meaning as well.
The idea of aporia, the entry argues, a kind of divided self; an opposition to one’s own progress. No wonder the word leaves one at a loss — that’s it’s point!
And no wonder that Eros itself is confusing, with that heritage.
I think of a striking movie about the writer David Foster Wallace, called End of the Tour, and a discussion after a screening featuring actor Jason Segal (who played Wallace). Segal, who clearly had spent months and maybe years thinking about Wallace, said simply that Wallace had to live with the awareness that he was always the smartest guy in the room. Unlike the rest of us, he added, Wallace had the vocabulary to express the loneliness of that, and yet the sensitivity to understand how it felt to others. He knew that his fruitless attempts to heal his own loneliness reached others as well, and yet that wasn’t enough to help him much.
Have to say, the portrayal, the writer, and the movie, which is essentially one long interview, touched me far far more than I expected it would — but in a good and powerful way.
[image from Bright Wall, Dark Room]