Alt-Epistemology: What is “the edge,” and why do we need it?

Thanks to a reader who today commented her appreciation of  this 2015 post, I decided to post it again, and add the word “Alt-Epistemology” to the title. Because that is, what it is!



I am an “edge” person. Edgy. Allergic to rules.

Not by choice, but by necessity. I tried very hard to “fit in” to the academic monoculture, where divergent thinking and feeling was frowned upon. I tried hard to keep on all the masks that were programmed into me. But, in the end — hell, in the beginning! in the very beginning of my so-called “career” — I failed.

Somehow, I knew I would fail. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to “teach logic,” when I had already recognized that logic is a tiny linear trap that pretends to create or mirror “cause and effect” where there is none; where, actually, everything in the universe — both internal and external — rises, and falls, together. All of it, the whole damn thing, “co-dependent arising,” interconnected, interwoven, on not just this plane but infinite others. There is no abstraction, and no separation except that we make it so. We make it all up!

My little dog is attracted to edges, too. Every time we go on a walk, he’s off running the edges — of grass where it meets bushes, or a building. He knows that there’s more life to be found there, in that place where different elements, species, ecosystems, patterns, whatever! meet and intersect. He knows instinctively. I do too, when I remember to forget my learned linear logic, and just move to the music of the inner/outer being as she unfurls, moment by moment, following the undulating flow of the breath.

My “position” on the edge has immense advantages. First of all, those who are “inside” whatever too right box they find themselves in (usually of “employment,” or “school,” or “marriage”), tend to seem to need my counsel. “How do I see/feel this situation I’m in without going crazy?” I translate that question to: “How do I both live inside it and not be of it at once?”

My response? In every situation, cultivate the witness, the observing consciousness, AWARENESS. No matter how identified you tend to be with this or any situation whether you feel it as good (attractive) or bad (repellent), pay attention: NOTICE how you are perceiving and feeling at any point in the process. Learn to wake up, right in the middle of your identification with the drama, whatever it is, if possible before its “logic” —its unstated rules about what the choices are, and they’re usually binary, contradictory — grabs you and tries to force you to choose “one or the other” course and act on that choice. This sounds easy. It’s very difficult. Difficult to catch yourself in the momentum of the rush of an idea that near-simultaneously triggers a feeling that moves you into action. Difficult to slow down enough to feel your way into the interstices of the flashing moment.

As for those so-called binary choices: please realize — it’s NEVER one or the other. Never! Get that. It’s always this, this still point, the point within which you can center yourself, and the center of which opens into spaciousness, where anything is possible, anything! From the linear line that features two poles at opposite ends, we graduate to recognizing any point on a line as it blooms into space. For a point itself, has no dimension! So that when we look at any single point close to, it opens! We fall through into the void. Into presence. Possibility. Magic and miracle.

The result? Every single point — of perception, of awareness —is itself an edge, a multidimensional edge, where we teeter into the unbounded, bountiful spaciousness of whatever happens next. Whatever happens next as we breathe our way through the present moment, paying attention to the edge of our breath as it flows in and out, opening, closing, living, dying, expanding, contracting. There is no end to the edge. The edge, from any point of view, is there, here, like your life.

Admittedly, this little rant on “the edge” is epistemological. In permacultural terms, it might be called a riff on “Zone Zero Zero.” Here’s a more prosaic “permacultural” contemplation of “edge.”

Why Is the Edge So Damned Important?


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2 Responses to Alt-Epistemology: What is “the edge,” and why do we need it?

  1. kelley says:

    Wow! “Opening a can of worms” is what I’ve been doing all my life & now I have some sense of why I find that so appealing while so many others are repulsed &/or angered by my stubborn need to “see what happens”. Then there is, of course, the ultimate edge (or what seems to time bound creatures like us as ultimate) of death.
    Thank you for opening yet another can of worms for me to play with for awhile.

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