This is Pirsig’s follow up to one of my all time favorites, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZAMM). After reading the Guidebook to Zen and ZAMM itself last year, I thought I’d finally dive into this one. It had gotten mixed reviews so I had hesitated for a while. After reading it, I can see why it got mixed reviews. Overall I enjoyed it, but it is not as cohesive as ZAMM, and certainly not the classic I consider ZAMM to be. I guess the main difference is that the narrative story that accompanies the development of the philsophy is just not as strong as it was in ZAMM. Additionally, the philosphy that is developed, while sound, does not hit home for me like ZAMM did.
I still have a lot of dog-eared pages, though not nearly as many as ZAMM (which is my most dog-eared book by far). Here area few notes and quotes on some of those dog-eared pages:
- There’s an old analogy to a cup of tea. If you want to drink new tea, you have to get rid of the old tea that’s in your cup, otherwise your cup just overlows and you get a wet mess. Your head is like that cup. It has a limited capacity and if you want to learn something about the world you should keep your head empty in order to learn it. It’s very easy to spend you whole life swishing old tea around in your cup thinking it’s great stuff because you’ve never really tried anything new, because you never could get it in….
Kind of like the need for a “Zen” mind before trying something new…. Really trying it.
- It’s a peculiarly American phenomenon, to catupult people suddenly into celebrity, lavish praise and wealth upon them, and then, at the moment they at last become convinced of their worth, try to destroy them. At their feet and then at their throats.
How true this is! And sad. (Though some celebrities bring it on themselves with their actions and behavior!)
- And he goes on to say “They love you for being what they want to be but they hate you for being what they’re not.“
- … Scientific truth has always contained an overwhelming difference from theological truth: it is provisional. Science always contains an eraser… Thus science, unlike orthodox theology, has been capable of continous, evolutionary growth.
- On Roberts Rules of Order (which I still need to read!): No minority has a right to block the majority from conducting the legal business of the organizatio. No majority has a right to prevent a minority from peacefully attempting to become a majority.
Personally, I wonder how true this is. It is of course a big argument for non-believers to point back to cases where “the Church” had to change based on new scientific knowledge. But I tend to think that this is only a mis-interpretation of the Scriptures by the Church at that time…
- There was a comment about Mark Twain and how he lived during the Victorian era, but was not Victorian. It just made me want to go back and read some Mark Twain again because it has been years!
- The other intersting point, touched on throughough the book, is the division of “metaphysics of quality” into four categories, inorganic, biological, social, and intellectual. I won’t get into the metaphsyics part, but what I found interesting is that Pirsig argues that we have reached a stage where the intellectual category dominates (has a higher level of evolution), so therefore intellect can overthrow/overrule social static patterns. That is why the culture of Victorianism, ruled by strict social rules, faded and we moved on, at first to the “hippy” era and now, even later, to an era where intellectually we can argue away just about any social pattern. This of course creates a lot of discord between those holding on to the old static patterns of acceptable social conduct and those that are out pushing the limits.
So, I would recommend this book, but only if you are a fan of ZAMM.