Monday, July 30, 2012

Thoughts on ZAMM

A few thoughts on Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. I'll keep them brief since I'm no philosopher:

- I'm puzzled at the popularity of this book, since it gets pretty academic when it comes to philosophy. I suppose, as Pirsig explains in the Afterward, that it was a book that tapped into the public consciousness of the mid-70s. Still, it's dry at times, especially if you're not versed in philosophy.

- I haven't encountered a better way of thinking about technology: "The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer of the gears of a cycle transmission as does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower."

- On the other hand, the notion of "Quality" continues to mystify me. Is it really something new, or is it a new word for an old concept from Eastern or Western philosophy? The author substituted "Quality" in for "Tao" at one point, but didn't conclusively equate the two.

- I'm curious about the connection to real Zen philosophy. From Wikipedia: "Though it may not deal with orthodox Zen Buddhist practice, Pirsig's book in fact deals with many of the more subtle facets of Zen living and Zen mentality without drawing attention to any religion or religious organization."

From the Wikipedia on Japanese Zen: "Zen meditation ideally is not only concentration, but also awareness: being aware of the continuing changes in our consciousness, of all our sensations and our automatic reactions."

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