Wednesday, July 6, 2011

ReView of ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE by Robert M. Pirsig ; metaphorical nature of man, philosophy,

This isn't quite just another book you'll read. You read too quickly and you're likely to miss something crucial surrounding the true message of the book.  The writing is simple, every day language, hardly any words to underline and look up if that's the sort of thing you do, like me.  Concepts are concrete and well defined.  Although, the nature of the concepts are much deeper than they first appear.  And that is the most beautiful thing about this book.  Just as if you would be riding along on motorcycle and casually enjoying the scenery, you find yourself pleasantly surprised to catch something with deeper meaning and significance in your view.  Even though, this story is about traveling cross-country on a motorcycle, you realize Pirsig is talking about the underlying forms and natures of man, the individual and humanity.

This is a philosophical novel, so there is plenty to cover and discuss, but I want to delve into only one aspect of the book.  I ONLY want to write about this because I feel it's what really fulfilled my vision of the book.  It is THIS overall theme that really tied the book together for me, and also explained a lot about what the title is.  But do not be mistaken, there's much more to this book than this.

"This is the zero moment of consciousness.  Stuck.  No answer.  Honked.  Kaput.  It's a miserable experience emotionally.  You're losing time.  You're incompetent. You don't know what you're doing....It's normal at this point for the fear-anger syndrome to take over.... What you're up against is the great unkown, the void of all Western though.  You need some ideas, some hypotheses....Creativity, originality, inventiveness, intuition, imagination - "unstuckness," in other words - are completely outside its domain."

You either know what this means or you don't.  You have either experienced it or have no idea what it's all about.  This is the reason you'll either get this book or you wont for what it's really worth.  Have you personally experienced being 'stuck' in life and in relationships with people.  If you are quite familiar with the feelings of feeling so miserably emotional it turns into the fear-anger syndrome that takes over you day in and day out until you figure out what's really taking place and try to do something about it, this book is for you.  Everything is unknown, uncertain, no ideas, no creativity, no originality, no inventiveness, no intuition, no imagination, no sense of path .... no sense of peace in any way, shape or form.... This moment of zero consciousness seems to happen suddenly and immediately at some random point in time, but this is the draining of the soul over an extended period of due to many 'setbacks' and 'hang-ups' that go on resolved, ignored, or even suppressed.

Does it feel that this 'stuckness' is inevitable, but in a way preventable. Pirsig says: "Stuckness shouldn't be avoided.  It's the psychic predecessor of all real understanding.  An egoles acceptance of stuckness is a key to an understanding of all Quality."  Whether it's inevitable or preventable, it is definitely a learning experience that all of us go through at some point in our lives, some more than others, nevertheless it is key to understanding the underlying form of our humanity.  It happens for a reason.... for us to come closer to our own peace of mind....(and spirit, but Pirsig doesn't really touch on that, his viewpoint is mostly an intellectual one, but there's a much higher peace and that is a spiritual one).

"This inner peace of mind occurs on three levels of understanding.  Physical quietness seems the easiest to achieve, although there are levels and levels of this too, as attested by the ability of Hindu mystics to live buried alive for many days.  Mental quietness, in which one has no wandering thoughts at all, seems more difficult, but can be achieved.  But value quietness, in which one has no wandering desires at all but simply performs the acts of his life without desires, that seems the hardest."

"Peace of mind produces the right values, right values produce right thoughts.  Right thoughts produce right actions and right actions produce work which will be a material reflection for others to see of the serenity at the center of it all."

But of course, there are 'setbacks' and 'hang-ups' to this inner peace. These are the parts of the book that relate to the title.  He says there are three external 'setbacks': out-of-sequence reassembly setback, intermittent failure, and parts problems.  These are not just problems that apply to the physical structure of a motorcycle, but also to the human form and experience.  You have to read the book and have a personal link to this to really understand what he's saying,he's kind of a genius.

Then he says there are plenty of internal 'hang-ups': value traps have subtraps of rigidity, ego, anxiety, boredom, and impatience; truth traps involve yes or no logic when sometimes there is no yes or no answer, sometimes there is no answer; and finally muscle traps which involves the trap of muscular sensitivity.  This all may seem to be a stretch, but Pirsig puts it very eloquently it would be a disservice to him to reiterate what he said, he says it best.  He is so real about this, he gives you something to chew on....

"Well, if I get around all those gumption traps, then will I have the thing licked?"
"The answer, of course, is no, you still haven't got anything licked.  You've got to live right too.  It's the way you live that predisposes you to avoid the traps and see the right facts.  You want to know how to paint a perfect painting?  It's easy.  Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally.  That's the way all the experts do it.  The making of a painting or the fixing of a motorcycle isn't separate from the rest of your existence.  If you're a sloppy thinker the six days of the week you aren't working on your machine, what trap avoidances, what gimmicks, can make you all of a sudden sharp on the seventh?  It all goes together."
There is a ZEN and ART to Motorcycle Maintenance just as there is a ZEN and ART to LIFE.... This is not a far-fetched idea.  Pirsig is a genius for writing this book.

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