Lost In Its Own Fragmentation Modern Culture Has Become Spiritually Confused

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Non-Quebec Canadians Were Kind Of At War With Quebec

Ottawa Jail Youth Hostel

July 6, 1977

Well, it finally happened! The other day (after my milk shake) the rain stopped. When I walked outside it started clearing, and, in another two hours, sunshine. The wind remained, however. I spent last night in a nice wooded area, close to houses, but hidden from view. Today has been beautiful, wind about 5-15 mph, not head on, and warm– almost hot. This was one of my 90-100 mile days, and I wanted to keep right on going. I stopped because I sent for money that would probably arrive in Ottawa in two more days. I’ll spend tomorrow cruising into town (60 or 70 miles) and try to find a youth hostel. It’s past time for a shower and washed clothes. My last shower was back in New Brunswick; washed clothes go all the way back to Nova Scotia. Why can’t everyday be like today (without the wind, though)! See, I’m never satisfied.

For supper, after stopping at a fruit growers gathering, I had two peaches and a quart of strawberries. Oh yeah, I also picked up an English-speaking radio station. That was an exciting event. It was the only time I ever wanted the music to stop just so I could listen to the disc jockey. Also, I’m getting $100. from my credit union. They’re sending it to a bank in Ottawa. I’m not going to punish myself anymore. I need my five to seven stops a day. That’s what keeps me happy.

July 7

Yesterday was okay biking–a little rain, and cloudy. Just before Ottawa, I met another bicycler, who welcomed me back to civilization. Apparently, the non-Quebec Canadians were kind of at war with Quebec. Quebec wanted to go it alone as they were seeking to become independent of Canada. My friend told me that on this side of river people were just regular people. So far, he’s been right. The animosity I encountered back in Quebec became more understandable after talking with that friendly Canadian biker.

In Ottawa I found a youth hostel that was a converted jail. According to the brochure, the gray stone structure had a capacity for 150 prisoners, many of whom were kept in cramped and dingy cells that measured only four by nine feet. That’s about right. I had my own cell, just two beds down from the hanging gallery. The last hanging was in 1945, a cop killer I guess. The jail itself was condemned back in ’72 and, after restoration, reopened as a youth hostel. I walked into the hanging gallery, a small windowless room with a very high ceiling only once. Except for the hanging gallery, the jail was a pretty neat place. Actually, Ottawa was (as cities go) pretty neat itself. It had beautiful architecture, was clean, and every night at the Parliament building there was a free outdoor concert. On my first night in town, I went with another hosteller, Riley, to a concert. He was staying a couple jail cells down from me. On the way to the concert, we picked up a friend of his, Jim.

The concert was nice. It featured a French singing female guitar player, but after the concert I enjoyed our visit at the pub a whole lot more. The place reminded me of home. We drank drafts, and ate free peanuts. I had almost forgotten what it was like to be around good people. In fact, it was a double your pleasure night because both of my drinking buddies had read Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance; everyone had their own opinion of the book. When Jim turned the conversation to the book, I looked at him and said, “What exactly was Pirsig saying anyway?”

“Well, in a nutshell,” said Jim; “the book was about a motorcycle trip. The guy doing the narration, the father, was taking Chris, his son, cross-country on the back of his motorcycle. They were traveling with two friends, John and Sylvia, who were also riding a motorcycle. Most of the drama took place in the head of the narrator. He was trying to put the pieces of his traumatic past back together. Because of a nervous breakdown, the narrator’s old personality was institutionalized, and given electric shock treatment. After his hospitalization, his original personality—Phaedrus, the English Professor, was replaced with the personality of the narrator of the story. Remembering the ‘how’s,’ ‘what’s,’ ‘where’s,’ and ‘why’s’ of the world-shaking truth that the old personality, Phaedrus, felt compelled to communicate to the world was what most of the story was about. A good deal of the tension, however, came from Chris’s relationship with his father because, according to the narrator, Chris was probably in the first stages of insanity himself. At the end of the book, the narrator and Chris confront each other and Phaedrus, the old personality, merged with the narrator’s personality. Since Chris was more than happy to get his old dad back, the book ended on a happy note. Well, that’s a sketch of the book, but as you know, there was a whole lot more to it.”

“Yeah, I know,” I said, “that’s what I’m interested in, the philosophy stuff—the ‘big revelation’ Phaedrus was trying to communicate. What was it?”

Ottawa Pub

Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance Book Discussion

“All that philosophy stuff was the Zen book’s sub plot,” Jim responded. “All through the book the narrator was trying to figure out what drove Pha
edrus. He remembered that Phaedrus was into Classic Greek literature, particularly Plato’s dialogues, but he didn’t remember why. Plato’s dialogues–dialectical question and answer retorts–dealt with subjects like ‘character,’ ‘excellence,’ and ‘virtue.’ The narrator continually tried to figure out why Phaedrus was so obsessed with issues that related to quality. The narrator also harbored some of that obsession. He was very nit-picky about his motorcycle upkeep and repair. Actually, that obsession was a pretty good trade off. Bike upkeep may be demanding, but it won’t drive you insane.”

“Don’t forget about “goodness,” “love,” and “beauty,” Riley said from across the table. “Phaedrus, like Plato before him, was trying to get a handle on the real meaning of those terms. He was, after all, looking for some kind of formula for improving people and society.”

“Yeah, that’s the way I read it, too.” I said, “I thought all that talk about quality was an attempt to understand how reason was related to mysticism, and how objective truth was related to feelings and values.”

“Aw, come on guys,” replied Jim, “Are you saying that the book was more about idle speculation and less about paying attention to detail? What, you’ve never owned a motorcycle before? Say it ain’t so!”

“Jim’s right,” said Riley, “motorcycle maintenance was the narrator’s main concern, but so too was the deplorable state of values. Lost in its own fragmentation, modern culture has become spiritually confused.”

“Watch out,” Jim replied, “I see the beginnings of a ‘soap box’ taking shape. Batten down the hatches.”

“The narrator’s alter ego, Phaedrus,” Riley continued, “traced the origin of the disintegration of Western values back to the split between Aristotle’s fact-based studies in classification and differentiation, and Plato’s more speculative approach to philosophy. In ancient Greece, that separation between facts and subjective qualities was not harmful, but in today’s society, where Western values are worshiped as God, that widening abyss has thrown everything out of kilter.

“According to Phaedrus, Plato’s dialectical method was supposed to get at the essence of—‘goodness,’ ‘love,’ and ‘beauty.’ But that didn’t happen. Instead, we celebrate the dialectic itself as the ‘highest truth.’ The very qualities it was trying to reveal, it now subverts as reason and value, truth and goodness, split apart, giving rise to the destructive dualisms that are at the heart of the disintegrating values in today’s world. The same rational discourse that was supposed to disclose goodness, love, and beauty as the ‘highest truth’ usurped the highest truth by becoming the highest truth. Because Phaedrus was searching for wholeness in a culture intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally fragmented, he drove himself mad. And, to my way of thinking, the narrator’s schizophrenic personality was simply a metaphor for all these “feelings of isolation” that are so pervasive in today’s society.

“Society today, is caught in a conflict between—feeling/intuition, and, sense perception/ reason. The gulf between these contrary ways of understanding has cut the ‘self’ off from any hope of unity. The abyss separating these contrary ways of knowing may in fact swallow more, much more, than mere values. But, hey, that’s just my reading of the story. Right Jim?”

“Shit Riley, with an imagination like that maybe you should write your own book,” Jim replied. “What’s all that stuff about feeling isolated anyway? If I’m being forced into some kind of ‘isolation cave’ then why don’t I feel isolated? What do you mean, split? What split? I’m not split! There’s the real world and an imaginary one–always has been, always will be. I choose to live in the real one, which is more than I can say for some of my closest friends. Plato lived in an imaginary one! It’s a choice period–real or imaginary. But be careful, if you make the wrong choice, you might go mad!”

To be continued…

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8 Responses to “Lost In Its Own Fragmentation Modern Culture Has Become Spiritually Confused”

  1. Beverly Says:

    I’m trying to picture you in a four by nine foot jail cell…and so close to the hanging gallery, too. You sure knew how to have a good time Dave!

    Have yourself a grand week my friend!!!

  2. J. A. Robinson Says:

    I really stopped by just to say how much I appreciate all the “likes” you leave on my “punny” posts. It gives me a smile when I see your blog name among those leaving likes.

    Note: The photo for this post and the one for “Everybody Wants What’s Good . . .” don’t load, no matter how many times I hit “refresh.

    Thanks again,

    John

    • bwinwnbwi Says:

      Thanks for the encouragement and kind words. I love your pictures John. Unlike the clutter of this blog, yours is simple and attractive; that is a plus for any blog–and that is why I do not post here anymore. As I have said here before, I do not know how people find this blog (I believe it has something to do with the confusion that arises because my other blog carries the same name (almost). I have, on my other blog, duplicated these posts–make them more readable. For instance you will find the above post broken up into many posts on my other blog (with pictures) at:

      http://bwinwnbwi2.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/ottawa%E2%80%94canada%E2%80%99s-capital/

      As you have already discovered, when this blog came over from Yahoo (where it was originally posted before Yahoo deleted it’s blogosphere)–the pictures did not transfer well. My other blog goes back in time farther than this one, but now I’m just duplicating these posts–and editing (simplifying) them. I hope this helps and I hope you move over to my postaday2011 WordPress blog entitled bwinwnbwi2 . I think you will find the reads more enjoyable. Take care and thanks again.

      • J. A. Robinson Says:

        I WILL visit you at your new location, but I can explain why people keep coming here.

        Do you know how when WordPress notifies you when you receive a “like” they list 3 links that you “might like to check out”? Well, when I click on any of those links, they still take me here.

        This must still be set as your primary blog. I think you can set your new blog to be your primary one. I don’t know if permanently deleting this blog site would mess things up or not. WP customer Support would be able to help you solve this problem.

        As it is now, whenever anyone gets notified of your likes, the links suggested for visiting link back here. –John

  3. bwinwnbwi Says:

    http://bwinwnbwi2.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/ottawa–canada's-capital/

  4. bwinwnbwi Says:

    Well, as you can see I’m poor at this computer thing, so if you want to go to this post in my other blog Google bwinwnbwimusic and write in Ottawa jail in the search space in the right corner of the blog (once you find it), click, and you will arrive at the series of posts that duplicate the above.

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