The Blot

Initially, I considered calling them pensées instead of blots, given they are random “thoughts” written in chronological order as depicted in Pascal’s famous work. I’ve already committed ostentatious erudition, so I don’t refuse the French to seem humble but to avoid anyone confusing my pensées with the Frenchman’s.

The length is undefined but typically under 50 words. The only imperative is the thought be written down as soon as there are words for it.

The merit of blots is the ancient notion that ideas are mysterious in origin. They simply arrive, like a bump in the dark. Whether the speculated source is the divine or the indigested, it is given that ideas are not sourced in the human mind. All ideas are something like public property.

We tend to imagine ideas originate in the mind (or are the mind) because the mind is where ideas belong. Hermit crabs do not make their shells but they make their homes in them. Similarly, ideas do not live in us, but we in them. Ideas are the human habitat: the hands of the mind feeling along the walls of experience.

Imagine all humanity lived in a great manor full of rooms and crannies and odd artifacts. An idea is like an unexplored room we happen to stumble upon, perhaps in a hallway we’ve walked many times before. It’s likely someone was there before us since there are faint traces of footprints in the dust, but who knows from how long ago? It’s also possible others will find it again after we’ve gone, just as we have, but the room, full of monstrous shadows that could be treasures, might just as soon be unexplored for centuries. Given how random the discovery, there is no guarantee of rediscovery. Moreover, if you leave you may not find it again.

By the same token, an idea unwritten is like a forgotten room in humanity’s home. A door chanced upon is something we should note, and we should do so fearfully. We might not have found it in the first place, so there is the equal chance of losing it.