Friday, August 30, 2013

R.M. Pirsig: "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance"

This book is not your usual leisure book. Although it rarely goes more than few meters away from the road or motorcycle, it is hardly a travelogue, or a mechanic's reference book. In fact, we are dealing here with autobiographical work. And a strong one. I found it online as a pdf and put it at Pirsig: "Zen and..."

I read this book for the first time as a teenager, and it had a profound influence on me. And it still has. Sure, I re-read it many times, and every time I had something to learn. This time again.

At first, one can take the message of the book to be one for free will, personal freedom and tune it with "The Wall" music of Pink Floyd all too easily. Spirit of the 1960-ies. Not too bad, for a teenager, if one takes as a motto:

"And what is good, Phædrus,
And what is not good...
Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?"

But as years go, one starts being more interested in what Phaedrus really found, why he went insane. I myself maybe grasped it when I was younger, and then lost it, enjoying too much the "usual" spirit of the book, as I saw it. Or becoming too arrogant to in my thinking that I understood it all. Never be an arrogant reader, it is like if you would be an arrogant side in a discussion. In this reading I recovered understanding of it, and feel a bit uneasy about it, as it shutters the firm columns of our high towers of Science. Phaedrus had, indeed, all reasons to go insane.

In short, what Phaedrus found was that we live in a Myth of dialectic, dualistic world, which is a lie, lie, lie. We are blinded by a (wrong) limiting choice of philosophical path taken in ancient Greece. Not that it was bad or avoidable, but nevertheless, it destroyed our ability to even THINK in agreement with the true world around us.

It is a bit like what was described in the previous book i reviewed here, "1984", where the aim of Newspeak was to prevent even thinking against Party. Simply, they cut the language so to make it impossible. What Phaedrus found is that we structured our philosophy, science, thinking and society in general in such a way that we stay alienated from true underlying picture of the world!

For more, go and fathom the book yourself, I am not a philosopher and I definitely do not feel as a guide for this one. But it does give me a profound shock to understand what Phaedrus found... Kind of a door to something what we'll probably see for the next time only when we meet Aliens.

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