As Gandhi Once Said–You Must Become The Change That You Want

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Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance Book Discussion Concluded

Ottawa Pub

“Did you ever consider that you might yourself be split,” Riley responded. “I’m sure you’re familiar with the dualisms spirit/matter, myth/rationality, mind/body, logic/emotion, —the list goes on and on. Those dualities affected Phaedrus. He understood them, and he was afraid because what they meant to him was that science and technology, runaway technology, was dehumanizing the humanities, dehumanizing humans. For him, the separation between feeling and reason was not just a mind-body thing; it was the ‘stake in the heart’ of understanding itself. In the end, his struggle with the classic/romantic dichotomy, his failure to merge formal thought processes with immediate intuition put his mind in freefall.”

“If you ask me, Phaedrus spent way too much of his time analyzing the Greeks,” Jim replied. “No wonder he lost it. It’s a cruel world out there. Accept it, and get on with your business. That’s the way to stay sane. Dualisms are a product of antiquated thinking, but I don’t expect them to disappear. ‘Dust to dust, ashes to ashes,’ isn’t that what the Bible says. Maybe we should take a lesson from the Good Book. That’s all there is you know, just dirt. If only people would wake up and smell them roses then maybe everybody would get out of the way and let science and technology do what it does best, create better living for everybody.”

“And what about goodness, love, and beauty,” Riley interjected.

“Oh, they’ll still be around,” Jim replied, “Its just that they will take their rightful place behind the real stuff. After all, you can’t feed people with goodness. Sometimes it’s hard to understand that, right!”

“No wonder Phaedrus was so distraught over the state of Western values,” replied Riley, “With people like you around, we’ll never get past the thinking that made Phaedrus so fanatical about values in the first place. The intolerable schism between fact and value, between ‘out there’ and ‘in here,’ turns people into strangers in their own minds, and Phaedrus knew that. Replacing goodness, love, and beauty, with stimulus/response mechanisms was never an option for him. His passionate combativeness pushed him over the edge, and, unfortunately, we are left with an unfinished account of Phaedrus’ journey, a journey that claimed quality to be the source of rationality.”

“What book did you read,” exclaimed Jim, “certainly not the one I read. Where did Pirsig say that the subjective ‘better, best, stuff of the world’ was the source of rationality? That’s irrational! Get real why don’t you!”

“Maybe you’re right. Maybe I did read a different book,” replied Riley. “The book I read made a strong case for quality first and reason second. ‘Quality perceptions’ take in all of it; take in beauty, love, goodness, and reason. Pirsig’s quality precedes anything that can be known about it, but from it everything else follows, and that includes rationality. When understood in this light, quality closes the gap between fact and value, between ‘in here’ and ‘out there.’ Reason, –quality reasoning, — is merely an extension of the ‘good’ that gets produced by quality.”

“If you ask me,” I said to Riley, “I bet that’s what Phaedrus was getting at when he chose care as the expression of quality. If one cares enough about what he or she is doing, then the duality between self and object disappears–because that’s what caring is all about, merging one’s identity with ‘one’s doing.’ It’s kind of like what Gandhi once said, ‘You must become the change that you want.’”

“That’s exactly right,” Riley responded, “In caring, quality is discovered. The tree is quality; the roots are care. But the flow goes both ways. The more one cares about knowing and doing, the more one sees and intuits. The more one sees and intuits, the more one cares about things. Caring puts you in front of dualisms, not in between them. Intuition comes first, though. You intuit wholes and then reason breaks them down into parts and subparts. Intuition then reassembles the parts and subparts back into wholes, new and different wholes. It’s all an unconscious drive on the part of intuition to move the whole caring process into new realms of integration and harmony.”

“And ‘knowing?’ I said.

“And ‘knowing,’” Riley replied, “and ‘knowing’ for sure.”

“Excuse me,” Jim exclaimed, “I forgot to let you fellows know that I suffer from vertigo. If you don’t want to see upchuck all over this table, you’d better bring this conversation back down to earth. Pity me, if you will. Let’s try and keep our feet on the ground, okay!”

“We haven’t left the ground,” Riley replied. “Far from it! According to the narrator, Phaedrus was searching for a kind of preconscious moment of knowing. I’m sure you would agree that at the dawning of rational analysis a quality moment was discovered. Even if a ‘preconscious moment of knowing’ does not exist, the idea that ‘it might exist’ cannot be dismissed, and, if it does exist,
as Phaedrus believed it did, then in that ‘quality moment of knowing’ we will also find the bridge linking reason and feeling, whole and part, and ‘personhood’ and ‘self.’ In fact that’s exactly what happened at the end of the book when the narrator’s personality merged back into Phaedrus. That’s pretty grounded stuff if you ask me!”

“Are you suggesting,” Jim replied, “that quality, as it was described in the book, is the real McCoy? Are you suggesting that this book is somehow a siren call for a new kind of savior– the second coming perhaps? Well, if you are, I suggest you go back to your 7th grade science class. Maybe the next time you’ll get it right– its not the claim, it’s the evidence!”

“Well, at the end of the book Phaedrus did manage to cure himself,” Riley responded. “The narrator and Phaedrus did merge back into one personality.”

“Wishing and hoping won’t pay the rent,” Jim replied, “unless of course it’s the title of a song and the song sells. I rest my case.”

“Well, before you send the case to the jury, or to the bar,” Riley quipped, “I have one last thing to say. Consider this–‘stuckness.’ What happens when we get stuck? Our mind moves toward a solution, doesn’t it? If we think hard enough, long enough, don’t we miraculously solve problems; no matter how deep-rooted they seem to be? At the very least, don’t we discover how to make problems less problematic? I want to suggest, like many have before me, that a harmony in the cosmos lures us to those solutions. The mind is a problem solver a/natural, and ‘quality’ is our guide. Quality, or whatever you want to call it, gets us unstuck. If the problem is a difficult one, it is ‘quality,’ not the facts, that lures us to the answer. In fact, some would say that without an elegant solution, the problem remains only half-solved. That’s the way the scientist goes about his business, and that same science tells us that reality is not static; it’s dynamic. It doesn’t just exist ‘out there,’ in opposition to us; we are an extension of the process that science calls ‘reality.’ Our changing views of science and history have taught us that facts are relative anyway. A fact’s validity is determined by the context it is embedded in, and that context, in turn, is embedded in our sense of the cosmos’ harmony and beauty. Quality is the continuing stimulus that our environment puts upon us to create the world in which we live. Phaedrus believed, or wanted to believe, that mind, nature, and technology are the products of a single prior reality. Value, for him, was not a derivative of self conscious thinking; rather, it was the antecedent of self conscious thinking.”

“You really believe all that crap, don’t you,” Jim said.

“What’s not to believe?” responded Riley. “The real question, if you ask me, is how can you persist in believing in a value free world of dirt and grim?”

“I can’t help myself,” Jim shot back, “it’s the natural way.”

“Well maybe for you it’s the natural way,” said Riley, “but all nature is telling me right now is that I’ve got to pee!”

“Right on!” said Jim, “Do you mind if I tag along? After all, it’s a long way to the bathroom and I wouldn’t want you to forget your purpose. Remember Phaedrus; he wasn’t so lucky. He was so overwhelmed with the ‘quality of his own thoughts’ that he plumb forgot where the bathroom was. I wouldn’t want that to happen to you.”

“Very funny,” replied Riley. “Let’s have another round.”

“Good idea,” I replied, “The night is still young.”


13 Responses to “As Gandhi Once Said–You Must Become The Change That You Want”

  1. Beverly Says:

    Dave, I wonder if I could understand this better if I read that book, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance?

    I have heard that saying of Gandhi – You Must Become The Change That You Want. I find myself in total agreement with that.

    That’s an interesting concept, “stuckness”. One that makes a lot of sense to me.

    I’ll give you this much Dave, you are certainly making me stretch. And that’s a good thing.

    Hope you have a great week!


  2. sue s Says:

    And I agree wholeheartedly with Beverly–your blogs make me think and give my brain some real exercise.I have not read Zen—for over thirty years–time perhaps to re-read. Blessings Sue

  3. zentango Says:

    thanks again for the “like”…have a nice day!

  4. frizztext Says:

    You Must Become
    The Change
    That You Want

  5. bwinwnbwi Says:

    I appreciate all the comments.

  6. zentango Says:

    Thank you very much for the “like” on “Premiere of Noche Triste”….still waiting for you in Rome…have a great year !

  7. zentango Says:

    Once again, thank you for the “like”…waiting for you in Rome…we welcome any suggestions…have a great year !

  8. lara hentz Says:

    There is a term in Indian Country- Split Feather. It is complex as in Two Worlds.

    • bwinwnbwi Says:

      I haven’t heard the term Split Feather before. The above post is more about moving in the other direction–to make things whole. Long before I read Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, I remember reading Black Elk Speaks, and for me that book (if I remember correctly) spoke of the “Grandfathers” who connected everything. A healing heart is far more powerful than a free-falling mind. Thanks for the comment–take care.

  9. Dads Taxi Says:

    Very nice writing. thanks for this enlightening blog post! Keep up the good work!

  10. eof737 Says:

    Are you still blogging? I don’t get any posts from you lately. Hope all is well?

  11. likeitiz Says:

    Hello. Thanks for stopping by. I find this entry quite amusing. Are you in Ottawa? I lived there for a year.

    I agree with Gandhi’s statement. Change has to come from within.

    • bwinwnbwi Says:

      I live in Michigan, however, I enjoyed Ottawa on a way to short visit. I try to put a little humor into what I consider important. The idea that “value is not a derivative of self conscious thinking; rather, it is the antecedent of self conscious thinking” would sound way to preachy without injecting a little humor into the conversation. Thanks for your comment. Take care.

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