Zen at ang Art ng Pagpapanatili ng Motorsiklo

Sa sandaling, Nagkaroon na ako ng ilang mga pagdududa tungkol sa aking katinuan. Pagkatapos ng lahat, kung nakita mo ang iyong sarili pagtatanong ang realness ng katotohanan, mayroon kang upang magtaka — ay ito katotohanan na unreal, o ang iyong katinuan?

Kapag ibinahagi ko ang aking mga ikinababahala sa philosophically hilig kaibigan ng minahan, reassured niya sa akin, “Katinuan ay overrated.” Matapos basahin ang Zen at ang Art ng Pagpapanatili ng Motorsiklo, Sa tingin ko siya mismo. Marahil hindi siya pumunta malayo sapat — Baka pagkabaliw ay paraan underrated.

Zen at ang Art ng Pagpapanatili ng Motorsiklo Tinutukoy pagkabaliw bilang ang proseso ng stepping sa labas mythos; mythos pagiging pinagsama-samang kabuuan ng aming pinagsamang kaalaman ang pumasa down na sa ibabaw ng henerasyon, ang “commonsense” Nauuna na lohika. Kung katotohanan ay hindi commonsense, ano ang? At doubting ang realness ng katotohanan, halos sa pamamagitan ng kahulugan, ay stepping sa labas ng hangganan ng mythos. Kaya umaangkop ito; ang aking mga alalahanin ay sa katunayan mahusay na itinatag.

Ngunit isang magandang pagkakaangkop ay walang garantiya ng “rightness” ng isang hypothesis, bilang Zen at ang Art ng Pagpapanatili ng Motorsiklo ay nagtuturo sa amin. Given sapat na oras, maaari naming palaging makabuo ng isang hypothesis na umaakma sa aming mga obserbasyon. Ang proseso ng hypothesizing mula sa obserbasyon at mga karanasan ay tulad ng sinusubukang i-hulaan ang likas na katangian ng isang bagay mula sa anino proyekto ito. At isang projection ay tiyak kung ano ang aming mga katotohanan ay — isang usli ng hindi kilalang mga form at mga proseso sa aming mga pandama at nagbibigay-malay na espasyo, sa aming mythos at logo. Ngunit dito, I may be pushing my own agenda rather than the theme of the book. Ngunit ito ay hindi magkasya, hindi ito? Iyon ang dahilan kung bakit natagpuan ko ang aking sarili muttering “Mismong!” nang paulit-ulit sa panahon ng aking tatlong bumabasa ng aklat, at bakit ako ay basahin ito sa marami pang beses sa hinaharap. Paalalahanan ang ating sarili muli Hayaan, isang magandang pagkakaangkop wala tungkol sa rightness ng isang hypothesis sabi.

One such reasonable hypothesis of ours is about continuity We all assume the continuity of our personality or selfhood, which is a bit strange. I know that I am the same person I was twenty years ago — older certainly, wiser perhaps, but still the same person. But from science, I also know for a fact that every cell, every atom and every little fundamental particle in my body now is different from what constituted my body then. The potassium in the banana I ate two weeks ago is, for instance, what may be controlling the neuronal firing behind the thought process helping me write this essay. But it is still me, not the banana. We all assume this continuity because it fits.

Losing this continuity of personality is a scary thought. How scary it is is what Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance tells you. As usual, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

In order to write a decent review of this book, it is necessary to summarize the “story” (which is believed to be based on the author’s life). Like most great works of literature, the story flows inwards and outwards. Outwardly, it is a story of a father and son (Pirsig and Chris) across the vast open spaces of America on a motorbike. Inwardly, it is a spiritual journey of self-discovery and surprising realizations. At an even deeper level, it is a journey towards possible enlightenment rediscovered.

The story begins with Pirsig and Chris riding with John and Sylvia. Right at the first unpretentious sentence, “I can see by my watch, without taking my hand from the left grip of the cycle, that it is eight-thirty in the morning,” it hit me that this was no ordinary book — the story is happening in the present tense. It is here and now — the underlying Zen-ness flows from the first short opening line and never stops.

The story slowly develops into the alienation between Chris and his father. The “father” comes across as a “selfish bastard,” as one of my friends observed.

The explanation for this disconnect between the father and the son soon follows. The narrator is not the father. He has the father’s body all right, but the real father had his personality erased through involuntary shock treatments. The doctor had reassured him that he had a new personality — not that he was a new personality.

The subtle difference makes ample sense once we realize that “he” and his “personality” are not two. And, to those of us how believe in the continuity of things like self-hood, it is a very scary statement. Personality is not something you have and wear, like a suit or a dress; it is what you are. If it can change, and you can get a new one, what does it say about what you think you are?

In Pirsig’s case, the annihilation of the old personality was not perfect. Besides, Chris was tagging along waiting for that personality to wake up. But awakening a personality is very different from waking a person up. It means waking up all the associated thoughts and ideas, insights and enlightenment. And wake up it does in this story — Phaedrus is back by the time we reach the last pages of the book.

What makes this book such a resounding success, (not merely in the market, but as an intellectual endeavor) are the notions and insights from Phaedrus that Pirsig manages to elicit. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is nothing short of a new way of looking at reality. It is a battle for the minds, yours and mine, and those yet to come.

Such a battle was waged and won ages ago, and the victors were not gracious and noble enough to let the defeated worldview survive. They used a deadly dialectical knife and sliced up our worldview into an unwieldy duality. The right schism, according to Phaedrus and/or Pirsig, would have been a trinity.

The trinity managed to survive, albeit feebly, as a vanquished hero, timid and self-effacing. We see it in the Bible, for instance, as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We see it Hinduism, as its three main gods, and in Vedanta, a line of thought I am more at home with, as Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram — the Truth, ???, the Beauty. The reason why I don’t know what exactly Shivam means indicates how the battle for the future minds was won by the dualists.

It matters little that the experts in Vedanta and the Indian philosophical schools may know precisely what Shivam signifies. I for one, and the countless millions like me, will never know it with the clarity with which we know the other two terms — Sundaram and Satyam, beauty and truth, Maya and Brahman, aesthetics and metaphysics, mind and matter. The dualists have so completely annihilated the third entity that it does not even make sense now to ask what it is. They have won.

Phaedrus did ask the question, and found the answer to be Quality — something that sits in between mind and matter, between a romantic and a classical understanding of the world. Something that we have to and do experience before our intellect has a chance to process and analyze it. Zen.

However, in doing so, Phaedrus steps outside our mythos, and is hence insane.

If insanity is Zen, then my old friend was right. Sanity is way overrated.

Photo by MonsieurLui


5 thoughts on “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”

  1. Pingback: Incurable Disease of Writing | Just Write Blog Carnival August 22, 2008 Edition
  2. Pingback: Zen and the Art of Body Maintenance Revisited | Don't Just Accept Old Age, Exercise Forever With FitOldDog, Ironman Triathlete And Aortic Surgery Survivor.

Comments are closed.