Zerzan or Bust?

Working in a crumbling tower

By driving on with reasoning one quickly comes to see where reason, and indeed, where the imagination itself, stops.

What is your scruple?

In the introduction to one of Nietzsche's books, either Beyond Good And Evil or On The Genealogy of Morals I think, I forget which exactly, he tells a story about what he refers to as his scruple. The scruple in question, if I am at all remembering accurately, had to do with the concept of Evil and what it was all about. By being sufficiently bothered by this concept, young Nietzsche supposedly started on the intellectual journey that led to his best known work. What is your scruple?

On The Limits Of Thinking

I am writing here about my first encounter with Nothingness. I must have been five or six, when, while speaking with another child at a day care about how one cannot depict Nothing with crayons, I realized and articulated for the first time just how impossible it is to know Nothing, because, by definition, there is nothing to know. Though I could not put it in these terms at the time, the idea that we have words which purport to signify concepts that are, in fact, incomprehensible, and that we nevertheless find a place for them in everyday speech, fascinated me then and fascinates me still.

Such an idea indicates to me a few things:

  1. That meaning is distinct from concept - located, no doubt, somewhere in the domain that linguists call "pragmatics". That is, meaning is about use, practice, context, and process - it has history and place; and that

  2. Reason can lead you to its own limits with very little effort and that, perhaps, the world is fundamentally unreasonable -- at least according to the present state of "our" intuitions.

I infer from this (wink wink) that reason, and in particular reason carried out in conjunction with language use, is a technology. That is, we bumbled into it and it enabled we humans to do new kinds of things, or old kinds of things more easily. Further: like all technologies language-powered-reason amplifies and extends us but, as it does, it hides certain things too (it amputates us, to speak in a McLuhanesque idiom).

That is, just as our experience of distance is dramatically altered by the automobile (10 miles feels quite close without enduring the embodied experience of the chain of footsteps linking point A to point B) so too does language hide-and-extend our understanding of, well, understanding itself. Indeed, for most people something is understood to be understood only when someone, somewhere, can put that understanding into words.

What's Up, Where Am I Going?

Much of my work in toyfulness lately has had to do with language, and much of my past interests involved a close experience of words, with the sounds of words, and with strings of verbal sounds - i.e. I used to make poetry. Not to invoke too obviously the psychoanalytic notion of repression, I think my focus on words and language stems from a deep skepticism of the plastic power of language in our lives. Language intervenes upon and insinuates itself into our experience of nearly everything. I'm not exactly trying to make a point here, just airing my mental laundry in the light of your attention.

Language In Play

The game I am currently working on focuses on language as its principle interface and game mechanic. In it you are a wizard wandering a hazardous dungeon. Your body is quite vulnerable, and almost anything will kill you. By using a spellcasting language you can alter and manipulate your surroundings to affect less dangerous traversal. Your power is unlimited in scope but not in extent. That is, you can alter anything that you can perceive and describe, but you are limited by your own understanding of how things work, and by your estimation of how costly your spells will be. Given such power, your apparent goal is to escape the dungeon (which is your final exam for your wizarding academy).

I hope to have it out this summer, and I'm curious what anyone, anywhere, will have to say about it.


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