Revisiting Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Revisiting Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Photo by Wesley Tingey | https://tricy.cl/2qTPgso

The author of the iconic book died last month

By Dan Zigmond

Robert Pirsig died on Monday, April 24, 2017, at his home in Maine. He was 88 and had been in poor health for some time.

In 1974, he published Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, an autobiographical account of the road trip he took with his 11-year-old son Chris from Minneapolis to San Francisco in the summer of 1968. It became an unexpected and almost immediate success, selling a million copies within a year and many more millions since.

The book also describes his experience, years earlier, of going clinically insane while trying to discover the meaning of life, eventually leaving him confined to a psychiatric hospital to receive electroconvulsive therapy. Yet a third strand of the novel develops the philosophy he explored during those difficult years—a metaphysics of what he calls “Quality”—in a series of informal narrative essays that form the bulk of most chapters.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is not about traditional Zen, although Pirsig was clearly inspired by Zen Buddhism. His philosophical investigations began through teaching English composition to college students and asking himself the simple question of what made writing good. He started with this practical quandary:

Quality—you know what it is, yet you don’t know what it is. But that’s self-contradictory. But some things are better than others, that is, they have more quality. But when you try to say what the quality is, apart from the things that have it, it all goes poof! There’s nothing to talk about. But if you can’t say what Quality is, how do you know what it is, or how do you know that it even exists? If no one knows what it is, then for all practical purposes it doesn’t exist at all. But for all practical purposes it really does exist. What else are the grades based on? Why else would people pay fortunes for some things and throw others in the trash pile? Obviously some things are better than others—but what’s the “betterness”? So round and round you go, spinning mental wheels and nowhere finding anyplace to get traction. What the hell is Quality? What is it?”

Pirsig describes a sort of enlightenment experience around this ineffable Quality koan of his, and he comes to equate his notion of Quality with the Buddha quite literally: “Quality is the Buddha,” he declares near the end. His writing on this point evokes a distinctly Zen flavor:

“To discover a metaphysical relationship of Quality and the Buddha at some mountaintop of personal experience is very spectacular. And very unimportant . . . What’s important is the relevance of such a discovery to all the valleys of this world, and all the dull, dreary jobs and monotonous years that await all of us in them.”

Pirsig adapted his famous—and now frequently imitated—title from Zen in the Art of Archery, a slim volume published by a German philosophy professor in the late 1940s that became one of the first works on Japanese Zen available in English. Although Pirsig’s own book makes few direct references to orthodox Zen practice, there are hints within that Pirsig knew much more than he let on. He makes a fleeting reference to “beginner’s mind,” that favorite phrase of San Francisco Zen Center’s founder Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. In fact, Pirsig studied extensively with Suzuki’s friend Dainin Katagiri Roshi, helping him start the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, which still thrives in Minneapolis.

Pirsig developed a deeper and far more tragic connection to the San Francisco Zen Center in 1979, when his son Chris was killed on the street just outside that building a week before his 23rd birthday. Chris had also suffered bouts of mental illness, but had moved to San Francisco and was living at the Center at the time, pursuing the formal practice of Zen that his father’s book largely avoided. Katagiri Roshi gave the address at Chris’s funeral. With the elder Pirsig’s passing last month, both passengers on that legendary motorcycle have now left us.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance likely remains the world’s best-selling book with the word “Zen” in the title. Pirsig himself offered a simple explanation for his work’s enduring appeal: “To reject that part of the Buddha that attends to the analysis of motorcycles is to miss the Buddha entirely,” he wrote early in his book. For certain newcomers to Zen and even some experienced practitioners, Pirsig’s long digressions on tightening bolts and changing spark plugs might just be the inspiration they need to understand life’s great mysteries…

more…

https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/revisiting-zen-art-motorcycle-maintenance/

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Are You Ready to Die?

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Paul Craig Roberts

“Fifty years ago, the streets of Leningrad taught me one thing: If a fight is inevitable, you must strike first.” Vladimir Putin

In George Orwell’s 1949 dystopian novel, 1984, information that no longer is consistent with Big Brother’s explanations is chucked down the Memory Hole. In the real American dystopia in which we currently live, the information is never reported at all.

On April 26—16 days ago—Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznihir, Deputy Chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces, stated at the Moscow International Security Conference that the Operations Command of the Russian General Staff has concluded that Washington is preparing a nuclear first strike on Russia.

See:

https://www.rt.com/news/386276-us-missile-shield-russia-strike/ 

http://www.fort-russ.com/2017/04/us-forces-preparing-sudden-nuclear.html 

https://www.times-gazette.com/ap%20general%20news/2016/10/12/russia-china-to-mull-joint-response-to-us-missile-shield  

http://themillenniumreport.com/2017/04/us-forces-preparing-sudden-nuclear-strike-on-russia-moscow-security-conference/ 

The Times-Gazett in Ashland, Ohio, was the only US print media that a Google search could turn up that reported this most alarming of all announcements. A Google search turned up no reports on US TV, and none on Canadian, Australian, European, or any other media except RT and Internet sites.

I have been unable to find any report that any US Senator or Representative or any European, Canadian, or Australian politician has raised a voice of concern.

No one in Washington got on the telephone to tell Putin that this was all a mistake, that the US was not preparing a nuclear first strike on Russia, or ask Putin how this serious situation could be defused.

Americans do not even know about it, except for my readers.

I would have expected at least that the CIA would have planted the story in the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and NPR that General Poznihir was expressing his personal opinion, nothing to be taken seriously. But apparently Americans and their European vassals are not to even know that such an accussation was made.

As I reported some time ago and more recently in my column about North Korea, the Chinese leadership has also concluded that the US intends a nuclear first strike against China.

Alone either Russia or China can destroy the US. If they act together, the destruction of the US would be redundant. What is the intelligence, if any, and morality, clearly none, of the US leadership that recklessly and irresponsibly invites Russia and China to preempt Washington’s attack on them with an attack on the US?

Surely not even insouciant Americans are so stupid as to think that Russia and China will just sit there and wait for Washington’s nuclear attack.

I lived through every stage of the Cold War. I participated in it. Never in my life have I experienced the situation where two nuclear powers were convinced that the third was going to surprise them with a nuclear attack.

I supported Trump because he, unlike Hillary, said he would normalize relations with Russia. Instead he has raised the tensions between the nuclear powers. Nothing is more irresponsible or dangerous.

We currently are in the most dangerous situation of my lifetime, and there is ZERO AWARENESS AND NO DISCUSSION!

How can this be? Putin has been issuing warnings for years. He has told the Western presstitute media on more than one occasion that they, in their dishonesty, are pushing the world to nuclear war. Putin has said over and over, “I issue warnings and no one hears.” “How do I get through to you?”

Maybe the morons will hear when mushroom clouds appear over Washington and New York, and Europe ceases to exist, as it will if Europe continues the confrontation with Russia as is required from Washington’s well-paid vassals.

Within the last several years I reported the Chinese government’s reaction to US war plans for a nuclear strike on China. The Chinese showed how their submarines would destroy the West Coast of the US and their ICBMs would finish off the rest of the country.

I reported all of this, and it produced no response. The Memory Hole wasn’t needed, as neither Washington nor the presstitutes nor the Internet noticed. This is insouciance to the thousandth degree.

In America and its subservient, crawling on their knees vassal states, the information never gets reported, so it never has to be put down the Memory Hole.

If you convince someone that you are going to kill them, they are going to kill you first. A government, such as what exists in Washington, that convinces powerful countries that they are targeted, is a government that has no respect whatsoever for the lives of its own people or the peoples of the world or for any life on planet Earth.

Such a government as Washington is evil beyond all measure, as are the media whores and European, Canadian, Australian, and Japanese vassal states that serve Washington at the expense of their own citizens.

Despite all their efforts to believe otherwise, the Russian and Chinese leaderships have finally arrived, belatedly, at the realization that Washington is evil to the core and is the agent of Satan.

For Russia and China, the Satanic Evil that rules in the West has reduced the choice for Russia and China to them or us.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2017/05/11/are-you-ready-to-die/

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