THE FORUMS

December 8th, 2016
Passages that impacted me from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
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Ryan

Ryan

Respected Member

Join Date: 11/13/2011 | Posts: 945

I finished reading Zen last night and wanted to share the passages I found interesting.  The book is punctuated with many philosophical discussions which anyone taking the journey will also find interesting.

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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.

I help Chris get to his feet. “You were going a little too fast,” I say. “Now the mountainside’s becoming steep and we have to go slowly. If you go too fast you get winded and when you get winded you get dizzy and that weakens your spirit and you think, I can’t do it. So go slow for a while.

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.

Mental reflection is so much more interesting than TV it’s a shame more people don’t switch over to it.

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. And even if you do it’s a hollow victory. In order to sustain the victory you have to prove yourself again and again in some other way, and again and again and again, driven forever to fill a false image, haunted by the fear that the image is not true and someone will find out. That’s never the way.

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.

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.

The gumption-filling process occurs when one is quiet long enough to see and hear and feel the real universe, not just one’s own stale opinions about it. But it’s nothing exotic. That’s why I like the word.
You see it often in people who return from long, quiet fishing trips. Often they’re a little defensive about having put so much time to “no account:” because there’s no intellectual justification for what they’ve been doing. But the returned fisherman usually has a peculiar abundance of gumption, usually for the very same things he was sick to death of a few weeks before. He hasn’t been wasting time. It’s only our limited cultural viewpoint that makes it seem so.

...I was going to say that the machine doesn’t respond to your personality, but it *does* respond to your personality. It’s just that the personality that it responds to is your *real* personality, the one that genuinely feels and reasons and acts, rather than any false, blow-up personality images your ego may conjure up. These false images are deflated so rapidly and completely you’re bound to be very discouraged very soon if you’ve derived your gumption from ego rather than Quality.
   If modesty doesn’t come easily or naturally to you, one way out of this trap is to fake the attitude of modesty anyway. If you just deliberately assume you’re not much good, then your gumption gets a boost when the facts prove this assumption is correct. This way you can keep going until the time comes when the facts prove this assumption is *incorrect*.

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.

It's a problem of our time. The range of 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 almost has to forego closeness with the people around him.

“What if the machine is wrong and I feel peaceful about it?" I reply, "That's self-contradictory. If you really don't care you aren't going to know it's wrong. The thought'll never occur to you. The act of pronouncing it wrong's a form of caring.”

This wasn't one room, this was a thousand rooms, changing each day with the storms and snows and patterns of clouds on the mountains, with each class, and even with each student. No two hours were ever alike, and it was always a mystery to him what the next one would bring...

We see much more of this loneliness now. It’s paradoxical that where people are the most closely croweded, in the big coastal cities in the East and West, the loneliness is the greatest. Back where people were 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 psychic distance, and in Montana and Idaho the physical distances are big but the psychic distances between people are small, and here it’s reversed.
    It’s the primary America we’re in. It hit the night before last in Prineville Junction and it’s been with us ever since. 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’s immediately around them. The media have convinced them that what’s right around them is unimportant. And that’s why they’re lonely. You see it in their faces. First the little flicker of searching, and then when they look at you, you’re just a kind of object. You don’t count. You’re not what they’re looking for. You’re not on TV.
    But in the secondary America we’ve been through, of back roads, and Chinaman’s ditches, and Appaloosa horses, and sweeping mountain ranges, and meditative thoughts, and kids with pinecones and bumblebees and open sky above us mile after mile after mile, all through that, what was real, what was *around* us dominated. And so there wasn’t much feeling of loneliness. That’s the way it must have been a hundred or two hundred years ago. Hardly any people and hardly any loneliness. I’m undoubtedly overgeneralizing, but if the proper qualifications were introduced it would be true.
    Technology is blamed for a lot of this loneliness, since the loneliness is certainly associated with the newer technological devices – TV, jets, freeways and so on – but I hope it’s been made plain that the real evil isn’t the objects of technology but the tendency of technology to isolate people into lonely attitudes of objectivity. It’s the objectivity, the dualistic way of looking at things underlying technology, that produces the evil.

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Cheers
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