Alain’s Propos

“”Years later he recalled how he wrote the propos: each evening, he would sit down before two sheets of paper, knowing before he started that the last line would be written at the bottom of the second page., and that within the confines of those two pages he would write a piece which, if he succeeded, would have ‘movement, air and elevation.’ He also knew that he would make no corrections, erasures or changes; since the piece would be published the next day, he did not have the niceties of anguished composition. He saw the bottom of the page approach, and ruthlessly suppressed every idea that was not germane to his theme. ‘The final barrier approached as other ideas began to appear; they were repressed; but, and I don’t know how, they succeeded in filling out the principle idea…The result was a kind of poetry and strength.”

-Robert D. Cottrell, Introduction to Alain on Happiness by Alain. Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1973.

I’ve mentioned Alain‘s writing over the years in this blog. I greatly admire his short essays that were composed in this way. I have thought that it might serve as an interesting experiment to try his method, which seems well-adapted to the blog format.

It also taps into the Foucault’s hupomnemata, where the act of writing for yourself or others serves as a vehicle for transformation. Technically, it’s a memory aid. In our writing, we are marking out pathways of thought. These pathways help us transverse certain areas quickly. But, it is also how we make ways of thinking our own, a shaping of ourselves using the collective thoughts of humanity.

So, the goal here is to take a quote or some idea and write a short little essay, and do it daily, more or less. I’m going to try to do that through the end of 2020 and see how it goes.