Thoughts on Summer’s Writing

Summer break begins in less than one week. My goal is to invest my time and effort into writing. What will I write? I don’t know exactly, though I’ve considered many things. Thinking in long-term plans, I should have a sabbatical in two years, in 2018. That sabbatical needs to be devoted to the completion of a large project. I have even less of an idea what that will be. Before I have sabbatical, I need to submit a sabbatical proposal, due around February of 2017. My primary goal for this summer is to have a clear idea of what that sabbatical proposal will be, and perhaps just write it.

As far as what I want to write this summer, I have thoughts both about the content and the style. It has been many years since I’ve been able to devote myself to writing about the things I most want to write about. A book about ethics, Spinoza, education, and democracy. I want to try my hand at an academic article, but the scope of that must be much narrower than those four topics combined. But perhaps an academic article is not what I’m best for.

I imagine a work like Pascal’s Pensees, or Montaigne’s Meditations. A collection of thoughts, loosely related, not declarative, but rather therapeutic for the reader. Pascal spent years writing thoughts in his notebook, under one of at least 27 different headlines. Some thoughts were a mere poetic sentence. Others were arguments ranging over multiple pages. At some point, he cut his notebook into pieces and organized his thoughts according to these headlines, and assembled them into a book. Each thought, or pensee, can stand alone. But they also fit together. They often cover the same ground again and again, and utilize the same metaphors.

Perhaps this is my style too. And perhaps this would be best. I believe I do teach something worthwhile for the students in my class, who are willing to listen, engage, and read. I offer very little to students in a single day. It is all done in context of the larger work of the class. One possible goal, which I fancy, is to write a book that simulates the best version of a student taking many of my classes.

What exactly is it that my classes teach? In a way, I hope the answer is “nothing.” I do not want to have an influence on what a student thinks. My goal is for my students to have a better understanding of how to examine their own beliefs, to find joy in that, and to develop a sense of joy in reading philosophy and other types of works for the same goal.

More than anything, I suspect I simply need to write something that brings me the sense of satisfaction I crave in writing something that reflects the best of my intelligence, insights, and experiences. If I find an audience, that is all the better. But the best version of myself does not crave that audience: it must be driven by a desire to express myself fully and deeply.

Perhaps something like the works of Pascal, except written from a 21st century perspective, with my thoughts rather than Pascal’s.

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