Étude Circulár - Adam Black


Here are the best lines of his story, a five-minute non-interactive read.


“What?” is the question
you’re best to ask
if you don’t know where to start.
As in, “What the fuck?”
“What is this shit?”
and “What is my task?”
“What is this they ask of me?”
and “What am I to do?”
and “What is the way of being
that might manage to see me through?”


This stuff is not for me.

Find the complete review on www.avventuretestuali.com

Well, I’ll admit that I did’t really get this one either. I had guessed from the blurb that it was a troll entry, but I am leaning in the direction that it was not meant to be one.

I’ve written a review: blog.templaro.com/etude-circular/

I’ll take a stab at this. There’s some Philosophy going on here. Be warned: my expertise on that subject is such that… I’ve heard of it. I’m interested, I’ve read a few books, but it’s not my trade, and I hope that someone out there with more relevant knowledge will show up and point out where I’ve gone wrong. Until then, I only hope to establish a starting point.

Etude Circular is a short Twine work espousing a particular worldview that comes off as somewhat defensive and paranoid but is actually based on respected literature. There are several quotes in the text (the author gives vague sources), but most of the work, I assume, is original. It uses a loose poetic form that was probably meant to elevate the message; I don’t think that was successful, but at any rate, the message is not obscured by the form, nor was it meant to be. It seems very direct to me. It’s a letter from the author to the reader.

The viewpoint is that most people are suffering from a delusion of thought, one that marginalizes people by labeling and categorizing them. In the author’s view, the problem is so rampant that he has no trouble accusing you directly of being a denizen of this “kingdom of delusions”. The suggested remedy is a complicated notion called Deconstruction, which was developed by Jacques Derrida, who is prominently mentioned in this Etude. I had not heard of Deconstruction, so naturally I looked it up on Wikipedia. Suffice it to say that it’s not an easy concept, and I have little chance of doing it justice in summary. However, leaning on context clues, it seems fairly safe to assume it’s anti-hierarchical. Getting further from certainty, I think the purpose of the activity of Deconstruction (which is typically applied to a written text and here may be generalized) is to point out that Meaning emerges only from the Comparison of Concepts, and that all Comparisons are inherently violent. Further, Meaning may not exist in the Platonic sense, or at least it is elusive. Just guessing here, I don’t think that Adam Black is attacking the possibility of metaphysical truth in the Platonic sense, only the hierarchical nature of the way people use concepts. And since concepts have no meaning without (quite artificial) comparison, perhaps all concepts are considered to be delusions. Concepts are mere symbols of the thing in question, and since they necessarily cannot contain the full essence of the thing, conceptual calculus of any sort cannot do the thing justice. In particular, we are talking about people being the things, labels representing the concepts. Labels such as “sociopath”.

Although Wittgenstein is also mentioned, I can’t work out exactly how he fits in, for sure. Presumably it is the “early” Wittgenstein–in other words, Tractatus–because the “later” Wittgenstein is associated with Analytic Philosophy, which is the opposite side of the main split in contemporary philosophy from Derrida, who is strongly associated with the Continental branch. (I can’t claim to have strong convictions here, but I consider myself, at present, to be generally sympathetic towards Continental Philosophy, like Black perhaps is, if this is the sort of thing he considers meaningful.) As for Tractatus, there are several interpretations, but I would hazard a guess that Black appreciates Wittgenstein’s conclusion that that which we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence. That seems consistent.

Etude also mentions Zen, in broad terms. The goal of Zen is merely likened to that of Deconstruction; the processes are not said to be the same thing, but assuming the processes are similar is a liberty I took to help me better understand the work. Insofar as I understand Zen (which, I admit, might not be that well), Concepts are often said to stand in the way of Enlightenment. When you meet a concept, you kill it. When they’re all removed, it’s much easier to see that you and the world are one and the same.

I’m far from certain that that’s the same goal as Deconstruction or even the state that Black is directing us towards. While he says a great deal about what is bad, very little is said about any positive value. In my interpretation, I take my cue from this quote:

“(A decadence… is a) falling away from what is human, and the further we fall, the less human we become. Because we are less human, we foist off the humanity we have lost on inanimate objects and abstract theories.” (This is a quote from Thomas Pynchon’s novel V.)

I’ll skip a discussion of Pynchon and the novel’s context here, but I take this to be the positive value in Black’s piece: being more human. Consistent with the outward-looking tone of this piece, but somewhat disturbing all the same, is the fact that the one positive value is stated negatively.

My personal take is that being more human, as a goal, is so vague as to be meaningless. Surely a Zen master would try to steer you back on course, were that your stated intention. There is something to be said for humanism, though, and such is associated with Continental Philosophy, Derrida, and many works influenced by Derrida. Perhaps Etude Circular could be use better discretion here. I felt like this was lashing out at a certain type of thinking but hitting many others, unfairly, in the process.

What’s the cause of all the trouble, the source of the “kingdom of delusion”? Weakly, the work only states it as “thinking”, or perhaps symbolic thinking. But neither could reasonably be considered a sin, or inhuman, or anti-human. Quite the opposite: thinking is exclusively human (exclusively personal may be more accurate). We think, and we build models of reality, and they’re useful to do what humans do. Concepts, labels, and hierarchies (as purely logical relationships) are part and parcel of that, not in and of themselves to blame for human marginalization.

If Etude Circular is a warning against confusing models with ultimate reality, I’d say a great deal more precision is required to elucidate the mechanisms that give rise to this kind of thinking. Although hateful thinking may be in the crosshairs, I think only an indirect targeting can be effective.

Well, considering that the only possible way of not “confusing models with ultimate reality” would be to not think at all, I guess it would be more fair to describe the message of this as “against thinking” or more generally “against human life”.

[rant]It’s that guy again.
The one so certain
he’s figured it out:
the Key,
the Truth,
the Way.
If his thoughts spill out onto the page disorganized
it’s because true genius is incomprehensible.
If the people fail to understand
it is because they are just lesser.
They do not think.
They do not understand.
If they read what he read,
If they pondered what he said,
Then they would think as he does,
and all would be enlightenment.
Line breaks make everything poetic:
rhyme and meter are mere strictures
used by novices and slaver teachers
to contort and conform the Spirit
that’s trying to break through.
If thoughts seem scattershot and undirected
It’s because people are lazy and won’t try to understand.
They have to try.
Communication is work on the part of the listener.
The speaker bears no onus. A message unheard
Can only be because he did not yell it loud enough
Or because the populace were too busy
with their doubtless meaningless thoughts
and theories
and terribly dull little lives
to comprehend the Glory
and the Truth
that he so badly wants to impart to us,
as long as he doesn’t have to actually think
about how to say it so another might understand.
He came to it himself. Others must too.
Making the path more level
would rob it of all meaning.
How else would you ensure only the Worthy
come to understand?
(Though of course, any who disagree
aren’t reading it right. The lazy fkers.)
“He” is a generalization–
certainly women can obfuscate as well–
but it seems to predominate for cultural reasons,
and presumably to be accurate in this case.
I’m tired of these guys.
I’m sick of the condescension.
The shallow pretense of poetics.
(Perhaps I see that in myself.)
The certainty.
And most of all,
the god damn writing
that commits the sin of so much philosophical writing
in encoding itself so obtusely
in its references and jargon
and unfamiliar ways of thought
that it builds itself as an impenetrable wall
(usually forgetting a gate or window)
against the hapless reader
so that they must prove their worth
by besieging the castle
in the hope or assumption
that something of value
lies within.
But it talks about plasma rifles
and swears a lot!
That’s the opposite of academic, right?
It’s still inaccessible,
and I am of the school
that words were created
to actually communicate,
to impart information,
and if frustrates me to no end
to see these f
king guys
consistently refusing
to actually do that.
(I’m also tired of the conceit
that we have any particular idea
of what the word “human”
actually means,
but that’s a more minor gripe.)
Anyway, no thank you.[/rant]