Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance Quotes

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When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a Religion.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
You look at where you're going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you've been and a pattern seems to emerge.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Sometimes it's a little better to travel than to arrive
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Is it hard?' Not if you have the right attitudes. Its having the right attitudes thats hard.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values)
We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it’s all gone.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
For every fact there is an infinity of hypotheses.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
If someone's ungrateful and you tell him he's ungrateful, okay, you've called him a name. You haven't solved anything.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce right thoughts. Right thoughts produce right actions and right actions produce work which will be a material reflection for others to see of the serenity at the center of it all.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn't any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it's right. If it disturbs you it's wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
It's the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The real cycle you're working on is a cycle called yourself.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The real purpose of the scientific method is to make sure nature hasn’t misled you into thinking you know something you actually don’t know.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Anxiety, the next gumption trap, is sort of the opposite of ego. You're so sure you'll do everything wrong you're afraid to do anything at all. Often this, rather than "laziness" is the real reason you find it hard to get started
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It's easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of the mountain, or in the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean the Buddha - which is to demean oneself.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
And what is good, Phaedrus, And what is not good— Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
(What makes his world so hard to see clearly is not its strangeness but its usualness).Familiarity can blind you too.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The pencil is mightier than the pen.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
We have artists with no scientific knowledge and scientists with no artistic knowledge and both with no spiritual sense of gravity at all, and the result is not just bad, it is ghastly.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
I argued that physical discomfort is important only when the mood is wrong. Then you fasten on to whatever thing is uncomfortable and call that the cause. But if the mood is right, then physical discomfort doesn't mean much.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Who really can face the future? All you can do is project from the past, even when the past shows that such projections are often wrong. And who really can forget the past? What else is there to know?
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The more you read, the more you calm down.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Absence of Quality is the essence of squareness.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
The doctrinal differences between Hinduism and Buddhism and Taoism are not anywhere near as important as doctrinal differences among Christianity and Islam and Judaism. Holy wars are not fought over them because verbalized statements about reality are never presumed to be reality itself.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Care and Quality are internal and external aspects of the same thing. A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares. A person who cares about what he sees and does is a person who’s bound to have some characteristic of quality.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values)
When you want to hurry something, that means you no longer care about it and want to get on to other things.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Other people can talk about how to expand the destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to fix a motorcycle. I think that what I have to say has more lasting value.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The more you look, the more you see.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
When a shepherd goes to kill a wolf, and takes his dog to see the sport, he should take care to avoid mistakes. The dog has certain relationships to the wolf the shepherd may have forgotten.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
You look at where you're going and where you are and it never makes much sense, but then you look back at where you've been and a pattern seems to emerge. And if you project forward from that pattern, then sometimes you can come up with something.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
If your mind is truly, profoundly stuck, then it might be much better off than when it was loaded with ideas
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with the emphasis on "good" rather than on "time"....
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Logic presumes a separation of subject from object; therefore logic is not final wisdom.This is Zen. This is my motorcycle maintenance.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The law of gravity and gravity itself did not exist before Isaac Newton." ...and what that means is that that law of gravity exists nowhere except in people's heads! It 's a ghost!" Mind has no matter or energy but they can't escape its predominance over everything they do. Logic exists in the mind. numbers exist only in the mind. I don't get upset when scientists say that ghosts exist in the mind. it's that only that gets me. science is only in your mind too, it's just that that doesn't make it bad. or ghosts either." Laws of nature are human inventions, like ghosts. Law of logic, of mathematics are also human inventions, like ghosts." ...we see what we see because these ghosts show it to us, ghosts of Moses and Christ and the Buddha, and Plato, and Descartes, and Rousseau and Jefferson and Lincoln, on and on and on. Isaac Newton is a very good ghost. One of the best. Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Mental reflection is so much more interesting than TV it's a shame more people don't switch over to it.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Although motorcycle riding is romantic, motorcycle maintenance is purely classic.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The past exists only in our memories, the future only in our plans. The present is our only reality. The tree that you are aware of intellectually, because of that small time lag, is always in the past and therefore is always unreal. Any intellectually conceived object is always in the past and therefore unreal. Reality is always the moment of vision before the intellectualization takes place. There is no other reality.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
When you live in the shadow of insanity, the appearance of another mind that thinks and talks as yours does is something close to a blessed event.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values)
The bones and flesh and legal statistics are the garments worn by the personality, not the other way around.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The way to see what looks good and understand the reasons it looks good, and to be at one with this goodness as the work proceeds, is to cultivate an inner quietness, a peace of mind so that goodness can shine through.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
There's this primary America of freeways and jet flights and TV and movie spectaculars, and people caught up in this primary America seem to go through huge portions of their lives without much consciousness of what immediately surrounds them. The media have convinced them that what's right around them is unimportant. And that's why they're lonely.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The TV scientist who mutters sadly, "The experiment is a failure; we have failed to achieve what we had hoped for," is suffering mainly from a bad script writer. An experiment is never a failure solely because it fails to achieve predicted results. An experiment is a failure only when it also fails adequately to test the hypothesis in question, when the data it produces don't prove anything one way or another.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
My favorite cure for boredom is sleep. It's very easy to get to sleep when bored and very hard to get bored after a long rest.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
One thing about pioneers that you don’t hear mentioned is that they are invariably, by their nature, mess-makers.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
First you get the feeling, then you figure out why.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Dad?" "What?" A small bird rises from a tree in front of us. "What should I be when I grow up?" The bird disappears over a far ridge. I don't know what to say. "Honest," I finally say.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
To the untrained eye ego-climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical. Both kinds of climbers place one foot in front of the other. Both breathe in and out at the same rate. Both stop when tired. Both go forward when rested. But what a difference! The ego-climber is like an instrument that’s out of adjustment. He puts his foot down an instant too soon or too late. He’s likely to miss a beautiful passage of sunlight through the trees. He goes on when the sloppiness of his step shows he’s tired. He rests at odd times. He looks up the trail trying to see what’s ahead even when he knows what’s ahead because he just looked a second before. He goes too fast or too slow for the conditions and when he talks his talk is forever about somewhere else, something else. He’s here but he’s not here. He rejects the here, he’s unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then *it* will be “here”. What he’s looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesn’t want that because it *is* all around him. Every step’s an effort, both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Some things you miss because they’re so tiny you overlook them. But some things you don’t see because they’re so huge.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
We keep passing unseen through little moments of other people’s lives.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
It was the ghost of rationality itself ... This is the ghost of normal everyday assumptions which declares that the ultimate purpose of life, which is to keep alive, is impossible, but that this is the ultimate purpose of life anyway, so that great minds struggle to cure diseases so that people may live longer, but only madmen ask why. One lives longer in order that he may live longer. There is no other purpose. That is what the ghost says.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Of the value traps, the most widespread and pernicious is value rigidity. This is an inability to revalue what one sees because of commitment to previous values. In motorcycle maintenance, you MUST rediscover what you do as you go. Rigid values makes this impossible.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Programs of a political nature are important end products of social quality that can be effective only if the underlying structure of social values is right. The social values are right only if the individual values are right. The place to improve the world is first in one's heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
This condemnation of technology is ingratitude, that's what it is. Blind alley, though. If someone's ungrateful and you tell him he's ungrateful, okay, you've called him a name. You haven't solved anything.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
As a result of his experiments he concluded that imitation was a real evil that had to be broken before real rhetoric teaching could begin. This imitation seemed to be an external compulsion. Little children didn’t have it. It seemed to come later on, possibly as a result of school itself. That sounded right, and the more he thought about it the more right it sounded. Schools teach you to imitate. If you don’t imitate what the teacher wants you get a bad grade. Here, in college, it was more sophisticated, of course; you were supposed to imitate the teacher in such a way as to convince the teacher you were not imitating, but taking the essence of the instruction and going ahead with it on your own. That got you A’s. Originality on the other hand could get you anything – from A to F. The whole grading system cautioned against it.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
To all appearances he was just drifting. In actuality he was just drifting.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
If you get careless or go romanticizing scientific information, giving it a flourish here and there, Nature will soon make a complete fool out of you.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
To arrive in the Rocky Mountains by plane would be to see them in one kind of context,as pretty scenery. But to arrive after days of hard travel across the prairies would be to see them in another way, as a goal, a promised land.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
This forest silence improves anyone.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
You’ve got to live right, too. It’s the way you live that predisposes you to avoid the traps and see the right facts. You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It’s easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally. That’s the way all the experts do it. The making of a painting or the fixing of a motorcycle isn’t separate from the rest of your existence. If you’re a sloppy thinker the six days of the week you aren’t working on your machine, what trap avoidance, what gimmicks, can make you all of a sudden sharp on the seventh? It all goes together ... The real cycle you're working in is a cycle called yourself. The machine that appears to be "out there" and the person that appears to be "in here" are not two separate things. They grow toward Quality or fall away from Quality together.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
There is a perennial classical question that asks which part of the motorcycle, which grain of sand in which pile, is the Buddha. Obviously to ask that question is to look in the wrong direction, for the Buddha is everywhere. But just as obviously to ask the question is to look in the right direction, for the Buddha is everwhere.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the snow is less visible, even though closer. These are things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow. But of course, without the top you can’t have any sides. It’s the top that defines the sides. So on we go—we have a long way—no hurry—just one step after the next—with a little Chautauqua for entertainment -- .Mental reflection is so much more interesting than TV it’s a shame more people don’t switch over to it. They probably think what they hear is unimportant but it never is.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
What was behind this smug presumption that what pleased you was bad or at least unimportant in comparison to other things? … Little children were trained not to do “just what they liked’ but … but what? … Of course! What others liked. And which others? Parents, teachers, supervisors, policemen, judges, officials, kings, dictators. All authorities. When you are trained to despise “just what you like” then, of course, you become a much more obedient servant of others — a good slave. When you learn not to do “just what you like” then the System loves you.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Of course, the laws of science contain no matter and have no energy either and therefore do not exist except in people's minds. It's best to be completely scientific about the whole thing and refuse to believe in either ghosts or the laws of science. That way you're safe. That doesn't leave you very much to believe in, but that's scientific too.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Grades really cover up failure to teach. A bad instructor can go through an entire quarter leaving absolutely nothing memorable in the minds of his class, curve out the scores on an irrelevant test, and leave the impression that some have learned and some have not. But if the grades are removed the class is forced to wonder each day what it’s really learning. The questions, What’s being taught? What’s the goal? How do the lectures and assignments accomplish the goal? become ominous. The removal of grades exposes a huge and frightening vacuum.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
If Quality were dropped, only rationality would remain unchanged.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Familiarity can blind you
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
The past cannot remember the past. The future can’t generate the future. The cutting edge of this instant right here and now is always nothing less than the totality of everything there is.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then work outwards from there. Other people can talk about how to expand the destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to fix a motorcycle. I think that what I have to say has more lasting value.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: ‘When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.
Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion)
I think now the trace of egotism may have been the beginning of all his troubles
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
People spend their entire lives at those lower altitudes without any awareness that this high country exists.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Science grows by its mu answers more than by its yes or no answers.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
He’d no longer be a grade-motivated person. He’d be a knowledge-motivated person.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Definitions are the foundation of reason. You can’t reason without them.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
When cleaning I do it the way people go to church—not so much to discover anything new, although I'm alert for new things, but mainly to reacquaint myself with the familiar. It's nice to go over familiar paths.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you're no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn't just a means to an end but a unique event in itself....To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountains which sustain life, not the top.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Mental reflection is so much more interesting than TV it’s a shame more people don’t switch over to it. They probably think what they hear is unimportant but it never is.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
You always suppress momentary anger at something you deeply and permanently hate.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Gumption is the psychic gasoline that keeps the whole thing going.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Motorcycle maintenance gets frustrating. Angering. Infuriating. That's what makes it interesting.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
That’s the way the world keeps on happening. Be interested in it.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
You look at these mountains now, and they look so permanent and peaceful, but they're changing all the time and the changes aren't always peaceful. Underneath us, beneath us here right now, there are forces that can tear this whole mountain apart.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
A slave mentality which had been built into him by years of carrot-and-whip grading, a mule mentality which said, “If you don’t whip me, I won’t work.” He didn’t get whipped. He didn’t work.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
If you get careless or go romanticizing scientific information, giving it a flourish here and there, Nature will soon make a complete fool out of you. It does it often enough anyway even when you don't give it opportunities.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
John looks at the motorcycle and he sees steel in various shapes and has negative feelings about these steel shapes and turns off the whole thing. I look at the shapes of the steel now and I see ideas. He thinks I’m working on parts. I’m working on concepts.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
People arrive at a factory and perform a totally meaningless task from eight to five without question because the structure demands that it be that way. There’s no villain, no “mean guy” who wants them to live meaningless lives, it’s just that the structure, the system demands it and no one is willing to take on the formidable task of changing the structure just because it is meaningless.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Oh, the laws of physics and of logic…the number system…the principle of algebraic substitution. These are ghosts. We just believe in them so thoroughly they seem real.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
A classical understanding sees the world primarily as underlying form itself. A romantic understanding sees it primarily in terms of immediate appearance.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
not sure of much of anything these days. Maybe that’s why I talk so much.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Bouncing on beds, I remember from childhood, is a great depression reliever.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Just a sort of unexplained sadness that comes each afternoon when the new day is gone forever and there’s nothing ahead but increasing darkness.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Caring about what you are doing is considered either unimportant or taken for granted.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values)
The cause of our current social crises, he would have said, is a genetic defect within the nature of reason itself. And until this genetic defect is cleared, the crises will continue. Our current modes of rationality are not moving society forward into a better world. They are taking it further and further from that better world. Since the Renaissance these modes have worked. As long as the need for food, clothing and shelter is dominant they will continue to work. But now that for huge masses of people these needs no longer overwhelm everything else, the whole structure of reason, handed down to us from ancient times, is no longer adequate. It begins to be seen for what it really is…emotionally hollow, esthetically meaningless and spiritually empty.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The material object of observation, the bicycle or rotisserie, can’t be right or wrong. Molecules are molecules. They don’t have any ethical codes to follow except those people give them. The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn’t any other test. If the machine produces tranquillity it’s right. If it disturbs you it’s wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed. The test of the machine’s always your own mind. There isn’t any other test.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
So green this summer and so fresh. There are white and gold daisies among the grass in front of an old wire fence, a meadow with some cows and far in the distance a low rising of the land with something golden on it. Hard to know what it is. No need to know.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
It's normal at this point for the fear-anger syndrome to take over and make you want to hammer on that side plate with a chisel, to pound it off with a sledge if necessary. You think about it, and the more you think about it the more you're inclined to take the whole machine to a high bridge and drop it off. It's just outrageous that a tiny little slot of a screw can defeat you so totally.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The Church of Reason, like all institutions of the System, is based not on individual strength but upon individual weakness. What’s really demanded in the Church of Reason is not ability, but inability. Then you are considered teachable. A truly able person is always a threat.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
This is the hardest stuff in the world to photograph. You need a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree lens, or something. You see it, and then you look down in the ground glass and it's just nothing. As soon as you put a border on it, it's gone.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
We see much more of this loneliness now. It's paradoxical that that where people are the most closely crowded in the big coastal cities in the East and West, the loneliness is greatest. Back where people are so spread out in Western Oregon and Idaho and Montana and the Dakotas you'd think the loneliness would have been greater, but we didn't see it so much. The explanation, I suppose, is that the physical distance between people has nothing to do with loneliness. It's the psychic distance, and in Montana and Idaho the physical distances are long but the psychic distances between people are small, and here, in primary America, it's reversed.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Motivation of this sort, once it catches hold, is a ferocious force, and in the gradeless, degreeless institution where our student would find himself, he wouldn’t stop with rote engineering information.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
When one isn’t dominated by feelings of separateness from what he’s working on, then one can be said to “care” about what he’s doing. That is what caring really is, a feeling of identification with what one’s doing.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
If you can’t define something you have no formal rational way of knowing that it exists. Neither can you really tell anyone else what it is. There is, in fact, no formal difference between inability to define and stupidity.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
There is mountain air in this room. It's cool and moist and almost fragrant. One deep breath makes me ready for the next one and then the next one and with each deep breath I feel a little readier until I jump out of bed and pull up the shade and let all that sunlight in - brilliant, cool, bright, sharp and clear.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
the stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
My personal feeling is that this is how any further improvement of the world will be done: by individuals making Quality decisions and that’s all.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
The solutions all are simple—after you have arrived at them. But they're simple only when you know already what they are.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
When you’ve got a Chautauqua in your head, it’s extremely hard not to inflict it on innocent people.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Degeneracy can be fun but it’s hard to keep up as a serious lifetime occupation.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Plans are deliberately indefinite, more to travel than to arrive anywhere.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Any effort that has self-glorification as its final endpoint is bound to end in disaster.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
For every fact there is an infinity of hypotheses. The more you look the more you see.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
I turn my head from side to side.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
To all appearances he was just drifting. In actuality he was just drifting. Drifting is what one does when looking at lateral truth.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
metaphysics is good if it improves everyday life; otherwise forget it.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Gumption is the psychic gasoline that keeps the whole thing going. If you haven’t got it there’s no way the motorcycle can possibly be fixed. But if you have got it and know how to keep it there’s absolutely no way in this whole world that motorcycle can keep from getting fixed. It’s bound to happen. Therefore the thing that must be monitored at all times and preserved before anything else is the gumption.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past. Ghosts and more ghosts. Ghosts trying to find their place among the living.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
The whole purpose of scientific method is to make valid distinctions between the false and the true in nature, to eliminate the subjective, unreal, imaginary elements from one’s work so as to obtain an objective, true picture of reality.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
He came to see his early failure as a lucky break, an accidental escape from a trap that had been set for him, and he was very trap-wary about institutional truths for the remainder of his time.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
She seems so depressed sometimes by the monotony and boredom of her city life, I thought maybe in this endless grass and wind she would see a thing that sometimes comes when monotony and boredom are accepted. It's here, but I have no names for it.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
He felt that institutions such as schools, churches, governments and political organizations of every sort all tended to direct thought for ends other than truth, for the perpetuation of their own functions, and for the control of individuals in the service of these functions. He came to see his early failure as a lucky break, an accidental escape from a trap that had been set for him, and he was very trap-wary about institutional truths for the remainder of his time.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values)
To reach him you have to back up and back up, and the further back you go, the further back you see you have to go, until what looked like a small problem of communication turns into a major philosophic inquiry.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
it, is best served not by mules but by free men. The purpose of abolishing grades and degrees is not to punish mules or to get rid of them but to provide an environment in which that mule can turn into a free man.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Now anybody can be "kind." And everybody's supposed to be. Except that long ago it was something you were born into and couldn't help. Now it's just a faked-up attitude half the time, like teachers the first day of class.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Now the stream of our common consciousness seems to be obliterating its own banks, losing its central direction and purpose, flooding the lowlands, disconnecting and isolating the highlands and to no particular purpose other than the wasteful fulfillment of its own internal momentum
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
You can reduce your anxiety somewhat by facing the fact that there isn't a mechanic alive who doesn't louse up a job once in a while. The main difference between you and the commercial mechanics is that when they do it you don't hear about it—just pay for it, in additional costs prorated through all your bills. When you make the mistakes yourself, you at least get the benefit of some education.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
What is in mind is a sort of Chautauqua...that's the only name I can think of for it...like the traveling tent-show Chautauquas that used to move across America, this America, the one that we are now in, an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer. The Chautauquas were pushed aside by faster-paced radio, movies and TV, and it seems to me the change was not entirely an improvement. Perhaps because of these changes the stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep. The old channels cannot contain it and in its search for new ones there seems to be growing havoc and destruction along its banks. In this Chautauqua I would like not to cut any new channels of consciousness but simply dig deeper into old ones that have become silted in with the debris of thoughts grown stale and platitudes too often repeated. "What's new?" is an interesting and broadening eternal question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endless parade of trivia and fashion, the silt of tomorrow. I would like, instead, to be concerned with the question "What is best?," a question which cuts deeply rather than broadly, a question whose answers tend to move the silt downstream. There are eras of human history in which the channels of thought have been too deeply cut and no change was possible, and nothing new ever happened, and "best" was a matter of dogma, but that is not the situation now. Now the stream of our common consciousness seems to be obliterating its own banks, losing its central direction and purpose, flooding the lowlands, disconnecting and isolating the highlands and to no particular purpose other than the wasteful fulfillment of its own internal momentum. Some channel deepening seems called for.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself. The machine that appears to be “out there” and the person that appears to be “in here” are not two separate things. They grow toward Quality or fall away from Quality together.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
The cutting edge of this instant right here and now is always nothing less than the totality of everything there is.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
It is a kind of nowhere, famous for nothing at all and has an appeal because of just that.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
It's so hard when contemplated in advance, and so easy when you do it.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
It’s important now to just live with this and not fight it mentally…mind control….
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
I was an outsider who seemed more interested in attacking what was being taught than learning from it.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
grades really cover up failure to teach.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
An experiment is never a failure solely because it fails to achieve predicted results.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
do what is “reasonable” even when it isn’t any good.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
The classic mode, by contrast, proceeds by reason and by laws—which are themselves underlying forms of thought and behavior.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
If one person complains he just makes it that much harder for the others. They’ve got stamina. They know how to keep on going.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself,
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
It’s an old split. Like the one between art and art history. One does it and the other talks about how it’s done and the talk about how it’s done never seems to match how one does it.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
On any mechanical repair job ego comes in for rough treatment. You're always being fooled, you're always making mistakes, and a mechanic who has a big ego to defend is at a terrific disadvantage. If you know enough mechanics to think of them as a group, and your observations coincide with mine, I think you'll agree that mechanics tend to be rather modest and quiet. There are exceptions, but generally if they're not quiet and modest at first, the works seems to make them that way. And skeptical. Attentive, but skeptical. But not egotistic. There's no way to bullshit your way into looking good on a mechanical repair job, except with someone who doesn't know what you're doing.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
You can’t really think hard about what you’re doing and listen to the radio at the same time. Maybe they didn’t see their job as having anything to do with hard thought, just wrench twiddling.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
But technology is simply the making of things and the making of things can't by its own nature be ugly or there would be no possibility for beauty in the arts, which also include the making of things. Actually a root word of technology, techne, originally meant "art." The ancient Greeks never separated art from manufacture in their minds, and so never developed separate words for them.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
It's a problem of our time. The range of human knowledge today is so great that we're all specialists and the distance between specializations has become so great that anyone who seeks to wander freely among them has to forego closeness with the people around him.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The way to solve the conflict between human values and technological needs is not to run away from technology. That’s impossible. The way to resolve the conflict is to break down the barrier of dualistic thought that prevent a real understanding of what technology is – not an exploitation of nature, but a fusion of nature and the human spirit into a new kind of creation that transcends both. When this transcendence occurs in such events as the first airplane flight across the ocean or the first footsteps on the moon, a kind of public recognition of the transcendent nature of technology occurs. But this transcendence should also occur at the individual level, on a personal basis, in one's own life, in a less dramatic way.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Any effort that has self-glorification as its final endpoint is bound to end in disaster. Now we’re paying the price. When you try to climb a mountain to prove how big you are, you almost never make it.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
May, will you please, kindly DIG it," he remembered one of them saying, "and hold up on all those wonderful seven-dollar questions? If you got to ask what IS it all the time, you'll never get time to KNOW.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The primitive tribes permitted far less individual freedom than does modern society. Ancient wars were committed with far less moral justification than modern ones. A technology that produces debris can find, and is finding, ways of disposing of it without ecological upset. And the schoolbook pictures of primitive man sometimes omit some of the detractions of his primitive life - the pain, the disease, famine, the hard labor needed just to stay alive. From that agony of bare existence to modern life can be soberly described only as upward progress, and the sole agent for this progress is quite clearly reason itself.
Robert M. Pirsig
Little children were trained not to do “just what they liked” but…but what?…Of course! What others liked. And which others? Parents, teachers, supervisors, policemen, judges, officials, kings, dictators. All authorities. When you are trained to despise “just what you like” then, of course, you become a much more obedient servant of others—a good slave. When you learn not to do “just what you like” then the System loves you.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
But until then, and right now, the sun is bright, the air is cool, my head is clear, there’s a whole day ahead of us, we’re almost to the mountains, it’s a good day to be alive. It’s this thinner air that does it. You always feel like this when you start getting into higher altitudes.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it’s right there, so blurred you can’t focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
There is no perfectly shaped part of the motorcycle and never will be, but when you come as close as these instruments take you, remarkable things happen, and you go flying across the countryside under a power that would be called magic if it were not so completely rational in every way.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
What’s new?” is an interesting and broadening eternal question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endless parade of trivia and fashion, the silt of tomorrow. I would like, instead, to be concerned with the question “What is best?,” a question which cuts deeply rather than broadly, a question whose answers tend to move the silt downstream.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Traditional scientific method has always been at the very best, 20–20 hindsight. It’s good for seeing where you’ve been. It’s good for testing the truth of what you think you know, but it can’t tell you where you ought to go, unless where you ought to go is a continuation of where you were going in the past. Creativity, originality, inventiveness, intuition, imagination—“unstuckness,” in other words—are completely outside its domain.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Unless you’re fond of hollering you don’t make great conversations on a running cycle. Instead you spend your time being aware of things and meditating on them. On sights and sounds, on the mood of the weather and things remembered, on the machine and the countryside you’re in, thinking about things at great leisure and length without being hurried and without feeling you’re losing time.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Like those in the valley behind us, most people stand in sight of the spiritual mountains all their lives and never enter them, being content to listen to others who have been there and thus avoid the hardships. Some travel into the mountains accompanied by experienced guides who know the best and least dangerous routes by which they arrive at their destination. Still others, inexperienced and untrusting, attempt to make their own routes. Few of these are successful, but occasionally some, by sheer will and luck and grace, do make it. Once there they become more aware than any of the others that there's no single or fixed number of routes. There are as many routes as there are individual souls.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
I want to talk about another kind of high country now in the world of thought, which in some ways, for me at least, seems to parallel or produce feelings similar to this, and call it the high country of the mind. If all of human knowledge, everything that’s known, is believed to be an enormous hierarchic structure, then the high country of the mind is found at the uppermost reaches of this structure in the most general, the most abstract considerations of all. Few people travel here. There’s no real profit to be made from wandering through it, yet like this high country of the material world all around us, it has its own austere beauty that to some people makes the hardships of traveling through it seem worthwhile. In the high country of the mind one has to become adjusted to the thinner air of uncertainty, and to the enormous magnitude of questions asked, and to the answers proposed to these questions. The sweep goes on and on and on so obviously much further than the mind can grasp one hesitates even to go near for fear of getting lost in them and never finding one’s way out.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The application of this knife, the division of the world into parts and the building of this structure, is something everybody does. All the time we are aware of millions of things around us - these changing shapes, these burning hills, the sound of the engine, the feel of the throttle, each rock and weed and fence post and piece of debris beside the road - aware of these things but not really conscious of them unless there is something unusual or unless they reflect something we are predisposed to see. We could not possibly be conscious of these things and remember all of them because our mind would be so full of useless details we would be unable to think. From all this awareness we must select, and what we select and calls consciousness is never the same as the awareness because the process of selection mutates it. We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
And what is written well and what is written badly...need we ask Lysias or any other poet or orator who ever wrote or will write either a political or other work, in meter or out of meter, poet or prose writer, to teach us this?" What is good, PhÊdrus, and what is not good...need we ask anyone to tell us these things?
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values)
I think that if we are going to reform the world, and make it a better place to live in, the way to do it is not with talk about relationships of the political nature… I think that kind of approach starts it at the end and presumes the end is the beginning. Programs of a political nature are important and products of social quality that can be effective only if the underlying structure of social values is right. The social values are right only if the individual values are right.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
If I hold my head to the left and look down at the handle grips and front wheel and map carrier and gas tank I get one pattern of sense data. If I move my head to the right I get another slightly different pattern of sense data. The two views are different. The angles of the planes and curves of the metal are different. The sunlight strikes them differently. If there's no logical basis for substance then there's no logical basis for concluding that what's produced these two views is the same motorcycle.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
A photograph can show a physical image in which time is static, and a mirror can show a physical image in which time is dynamic, but I think that what he saw on the mountain was another kind of image altogether which was not physical and did not exist in time at all.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
These are things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here's where things grow…but of course, without the top you can't have any sides. It's the top that defines the sides
Robert M. Persig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
I know what it is! We’ve arrived at the West Coast! We’re all strangers again! Folks, I just forgot the biggest gumption trap of all. The funeral procession! The one everybody’s in, this hyped-up, fuck-you, supermodern, ego style of life that thinks it owns this country.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
To discover a metaphysical relationship between Quality and the Buddha at some mountaintop of personal experience is very spectacular. And very unimportant. If that were all this Chautauqua was about I should be dismissed. 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.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The truths Phaedrus began to pursue were lateral truths; no longer the frontal truths of science, those toward which the discipline pointed, but the kind of truth you see laterally, out of the corner of your eye. In a laboratory situation, when your whole procedure goes haywire, when everything goes wrong or is indeterminate or is so screwed up by unexpected results you can't make head or tail out of anything, you start looking laterally. That's a word he later used to describe a growth of knowledge that doesn't move forward like an arrow in flight, but expands sideways, like an arrow enlarging in flight, or like the archer, discovering that although he has hit the bull's-eye and won the prize, his head is on a pillow and the sun is coming in the window. Lateral knowledge is knowledge that's from a wholly unexpected direction, from a direction that's not even understood as a direction until the knowledge forces itself upon one. Lateral truths point to the falseness of axioms and postulates underlying one's existing system of getting at truth.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
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?
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The main skill is to keep from getting lost. Since the roads are used only by local people who know them by sight nobody complains if the junctions aren’t posted. And often they aren’t. When they are it’s usually a small sign hiding unobtrusively in the weeds and that’s all. County-road-sign makers seldom tell you twice. If you miss that sign in the weeds that’s your problem, not theirs. Moreover, you discover that the highway maps are often inaccurate about county roads. And from time to time you find your “county road” takes you onto a two-rutter and then a single rutter and then into a pasture and stops, or else it takes you into some farmer’s backyard. So we navigate mostly by dead reckoning, and deduction from what clues we find. I keep a compass in one pocket for overcast days when the sun doesn’t show directions and have the map mounted in a special carrier on top of the gas tank where I can keep track of miles from the last junction and know what to look for. With those tools and a lack of pressure to “get somewhere” it works out fine and we just about have America all to ourselves.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Here, in college, it was more sophisticated, of course; you were supposed to imitate the teacher in such a way as to convince the teacher you were not imitating, but taking the essence of the instruction and going ahead with it on your own. That got you A’s. Originality on the other hand could get you anything—from A to F. The whole grading system cautioned against it.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
I tell him getting stuck is the commonest trouble of all. Usually, I say, your mind gets stuck when you're trying to do too many things at once. What you have to do is try not to force words to com. That just gets you more stuck. What you have to do now is separate out the things and do them one at a time. You're trying to think of what to say and what to say first at the same time and that's too hard. So separate them out. Just make a list of all the things you want to say in any old order. Then later we'll figure out the right order.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Like that timber wolf on the mountain he had a kind of animal courage. He went his own way with unconcern for consequences that sometimes stunned people, and stuns me now to hear about it. He did not often swerve to right or to left. I’ve discovered that. But this courage didn’t arise from any idealistic idea of self-sacrifice, only from the intensity of his pursuit, and there was nothing noble about it.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Coastal people never really know what the ocean symbolizes to landlocked inland people—what a great distant dream it is, present but unseen in the deepest levels of subconsciousness, and when they arrive at the ocean and the conscious images are compared with the subconscious dream there is a sense of defeat at having come so far to be so stopped by the mystery that can never be fathomed. The source of it all.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Not everyone understands what a completely rational process this is, this maintenance of a motorcycle. They think it's some kind of "knack" or some kind of "affinity for machines" in operation. They are right, but the knack is almost purely a process of reason, and most of the troubles are caused by what old time radio men called a "short between the earphones," failures to use the head properly. A motorcycle functions entirely in accordance with the laws of reason, and a study of the art of motorcycle maintenance is really a miniature study of the art of rationality itself.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
I've said you can actually see this fusion in skilled mechanics and machinists of a certain sort, and you can see it in the work they do. To say that they are not artists is to misunderstand the nature of art. They have patience, care and attentiveness to what they're doing, but more than this—there's a kind of inner peace of mind that isn't contrived but results from a kind of harmony with the work in which there's no leader and no follower. The material and the craftsman's thoughts change together in a progression of smooth, even changes until his mind is at rest at the exact instant the material is right.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process. That is fairly well understood, at least in the arts. Mark Twain’s experience comes to mind, in which, after he had mastered the analytic knowledge needed to pilot the Mississippi River, he discovered the river had lost its beauty. Something is always killed. But what is less noticed in the arts—something is always created too. And instead of just dwelling on what is killed it’s important also to see what’s created and to see the process as a kind of death-birth continuity that is neither good nor bad, but just is.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Berge sollte man mit möglichst wenig Anstrengung und ohne Ehrgeiz ersteigen. Unsere eigene Natur sollte das Tempo bestimmen. Wenn man unruhig wird, geht man schneller. Wenn man zu keuchen anfängt, geht man langsamer. Man steigt auf den Berg in einem Zustand, in dem sich Rastlosigkeit und Erschöpfung die Waage halten. Dann, wenn man nicht mehr in Gedanken vorauseilt, ist jeder Schritt nicht mehr bloß ein Mittel zum Zweck, sondern ein einmaliges Ereignis. Dieses Blatt ist gezähnt. Dieser Felsen scheint locker. Von dieser Stelle aus ist der Schnee nicht mehr so gut zu sehen, obwohl man ihm schon näher ist. Das sind Dinge, die man ohnehin wahrnehmen sollte. Nur auf irgendein zukünftiges Ziel hin zu leben ist seicht. Die Flanken des Berges sind es, auf denen Leben gedeiht, nicht der Gipfel. Hier wächst etwas.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
The real purpose of the scientific method is to make sure Nature hasn't misled you into thinking you know something you don't actually know. There's not a mechanic or scientist or technician alive who hasn't suffered from that one so much that he's not instinctively on guard. That's the main reason why so much scientific and mechanical information sounds so dull and so cautious. If you get careless or go romanticizing scientific information, give it a flourish here and there, Nature will soon make a complete fool out of you. It does it often enough anyway even when you don't give it opportunities. One must be extremely careful and rigidly logical when dealing with Nature: one logical slip and an entire scientific edifice comes tumbling down. One false deduction about the machine and you can get hung up indefinitely.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
It should be inserted here parenthetically that there's a school of mechanical thought which says I shouldn't be getting into a complex assembly I don't know anything about. I should have training or leave the job to a specialist. Thats a self-serving school of mechanical eliteness I'd like to see wiped out. [...] You're at a disadvantage the first time around it may cost you a little more because of parts you accidentally damage, and it will almost undoubtedly take a lot more time, but the next time around you're way ahead of the specialist. You, with gumption, have learned the assembly the hard way and you've a whole set of good feelings about it that he's unlikely to have.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
After a while he says, “Do you believe in ghosts?” “No,” I say. “Why not?” “Because they are un-sci-en-ti-fic.” The way I say this makes John smile. “They contain no matter,” I continue, “and have no energy and therefore, according to the laws of science, do not exist except in people’s minds.” The whiskey, the fatigue and the wind in the trees start mixing in my mind. “Of course,” I add, “the laws of science contain no matter and have no energy either and therefore do not exist except in people’s minds. It’s best to be completely scientific about the whole thing and refuse to believe in either ghosts or the laws of science. That way you’re safe. That doesn’t leave you very much to believe in, but that’s scientific too.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
To doubt the literal meaning of the words of Jesus or Moses incurs hostility from most people, but it’s just a fact that if Jesus or Moses were to appear today, unidentified, with the same message he spoke many years ago, his mental stability would be challenged. This isn’t because what Jesus or Moses said was untrue or because modern society is in error but simply because the route they chose to reveal to others has lost relevance and comprehensibility. "Heaven above" fades from meaning when space-age consciousness asks, Where is "above"? But the fact that the old routes have tended, because of language rigidity, to lose their everyday meaning and become almost closed doesn’t mean that the mountain is no longer there. It’s there and will be there as long as consciousness exists.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Our current modes of rationality are not moving society forward into a better world. They are taking it further and further from that better world. Since the Renaissance these modes have worked. As long as the need for food, clothing and shelter is dominant they will continue to work. But now that for huge masses of people these needs no longer overwhelm everything else, the whole structure of reason, handed down to us from ancient times, is no longer adequate. It begins to be seen for what it really is...emotionally hollow, esthetically meaningless and spiritually empty. That, today, is where it is at, and will continue to be at for a long time to come.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
Classical understanding is concerned with the piles and the basis for sorting and interrelating them. Romantic understanding is directed toward the handful of sand before the sorting begins. Both are valid ways of looking at the world although irreconcilable with each other. What has become an urgent necessity is a way of looking at the world that does violence to neither of these two kinds of understanding and unites them into one. Such an understanding will not reject sand-sorting or contemplation of unsorted sand for its own sake. Such an understanding will instead seek to direct attention to the endless landscape from which the sand is taken. That is what Phaedrus, the poor surgeon, was trying to do.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
That's all the motorcycle is, a system of concepts worked out in steel. There's no part in it, no shape in it, that is not out of someone's mind [...] I've noticed that people who have never worked with steel have trouble seeing this—that the motorcycle is primarily a mental phenomenon. They associate metal with given shapes—pipes, rods, girders, tools, parts—all of them fixed and inviolable., and think of it as primarily physical. But a person who does machining or foundry work or forger work or welding sees "steel" as having no shape at all. Steel can be any shape you want if you are skilled enough, and any shape but the one you want if you are not. Shapes, like this tappet, are what you arrive at, what you give to the steel. Steel has no more shape than this old pile of dirt on the engine here. These shapes are all of someone's mind. That's important to see. The steel? Hell, even the steel is out of someone's mind. There's no steel in nature. Anyone from the Bronze Age could have told you that. All nature has is a potential for steel. There's nothing else there.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
It’s sometimes argued that there’s no real progress; that a civilization that kills multitudes in mass warfare, that pollutes the land and oceans with ever larger quantities of debris, that destroys the dignity of individuals by subjecting them to a forced mechanized existence can hardly be called an advance over the simpler hunting and gathering and agricultural existence of prehistoric times. But this argument, though romantically appealing, doesn’t hold up. The primitive tribes permitted far less individual freedom than does modern society. Ancient wars were committed with far less moral justification than modern ones. A technology that produces debris can find, and is finding, ways of disposing of it without ecological upset. And the schoolbook pictures of primitive man sometimes omit some of the detractions of his primitive life—the pain, the disease, famine, the hard labor needed just to stay alive. From that agony of bare existence to modern life can be soberly described only as upward progress, and the sole agent for this progress is quite clearly reason itself.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Part Three, that part of formal scientific method called experimentation, is sometimes thought of by romantics as all of science itself because that’s the only part with much visual surface. They see lots of test tubes and bizarre equipment and people running around making discoveries. They do not see the experiment as part of a larger intellectual process and so they often confuse experiments with demonstrations, which look the same. A man conducting a gee-whiz science show with fifty thousand dollars’ worth of Frankenstein equipment is not doing anything scientific if he knows beforehand what the results of his efforts are going to be. A motorcycle mechanic, on the other hand, who honks the horn to see if the battery works is informally conducting a true scientific experiment. He is testing a hypothesis by putting the question to nature. The TV scientist who mutters sadly, “The experiment is a failure; we have failed to achieve what we had hoped for,” is suffering mainly from a bad scriptwriter. An experiment is never a failure solely because it fails to achieve predicted results. An experiment is a failure only when it also fails adequately to test the hypothesis in question, when the data it produces don’t prove anything one way or another.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Phædrus wrote a letter from India about a pilgrimage to holy Mount Kailas, the source of the Ganges and the abode of Shiva, high in the Himalayas, in the company of a holy man and his adherents. He never reached the mountain. After the third day he gave up, exhausted, and the pilgrimage went on without him. He said he had the physical strength but that physical strength wasn’t enough. He had the intellectual motivation but that wasn’t enough either. He didn’t think he had been arrogant but thought that he was undertaking the pilgrimage to broaden his experience, to gain understanding for himself. He was trying to use the mountain for his own purposes and the pilgrimage too. He regarded himself as the fixed entity, not the pilgrimage or the mountain, and thus wasn’t ready for it. He speculated that the other pilgrims, the ones who reached the mountain, probably sensed the holiness of the mountain so intensely that each footstep was an act of devotion, an act of submission to this holiness. The holiness of the mountain infused into their own spirits enabled them to endure far more than anything he, with his greater physical strength, could take.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1))
To speak of certain government and establishment institutions as “the system” is to speak correctly, since these organizations are founded upon the same structural conceptual relationships as a motorcycle. They are sustained by structural relationships even when they have lost all other meaning and purpose. People arrive at a factory and perform a totally meaningless task from eight to five without question because the structure demands that it be that way. There’s no villain, no “mean guy” who wants them to live meaningless lives, it’s just that the structure, the system demands it and no one is willing to take on the formidable task of changing the structure just because it is meaningless. But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory.
Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)