Notes from reading: Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance

I got to know about Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance book via my friend Prateek on Facebook. He suggested that I should read this book since I been reading a lot of Philosophy all this while.

Just the spoiler, the book is not entirely about motorcycle maintenance instead an account of author’s motorcycle trip from Minnesota to California with his young son Chris, a philosophical meditation on the concept of Quality, and the story of a man pursued by the ghost of his former self. The book is written by Robert Pirsig , who passed away recently at age of 88.

These are some of my kindle notes from the book: 

  1. The world exists as a conflict and tension of opposites.
  2. Man is the measure of all things.
  3. A good student seeks knowledge fairly and impartially.
  4. According to Socrates both rhetoric and cooking are branches of pandering – pimping – because they appeal to the emotions rather than true knowledge.
  5. If you want to be happy just change your mind.
  6. The passions are characterized as the destroyer of understanding, and Phaedrus (auther) wonders if this is where the condemnation of the passions so deeply buried in Western thought got its start.
  7. Some say the good is found in happiness, but how do we know what happiness is? And how can happiness be defined? Happiness and good are not objective terms.
  8. I survive mainly by pleasing others. You do that to get out. To get out you figure out what they want you to say and then you say it with as much skill and originality as possible and then, if they’re convinced, you get out.
  9. 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.
  10. The mythos (myth) that says the forms of this world are real but the Quality of this world is unreal, that is insane.
  11. There are worse things than hiding in the shadows.
  12. Goals must be scaled down in importance and immediate goals must be scaled up.
  13. Impatience is best handled by allowing an indefinite time for the job, particularly new jobs that require unfamiliar techniques; by doubling the allotted time when circumstances force time planning; and by scaling down the scope of what you want to do.
  14. Impatience is the first reaction against a setback and can soon turn to anger if you’re not careful.
  15. 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. My next favorite is coffee.
  16. When you make the mistakes yourself, you at least get the benefit of some education.
  17. Boredom  is the opposite of anxiety and commonly goes with ego problems. Boredom means you’re off the Quality track.
  18. If your values are rigid you can’t really learn new facts.
  19. The facts do not exist until value has created them.
  20. The birth of a new fact is always a wonderful thing to experience.
  21. When false information makes you look good, you’re likely to believe it.
  22. Your ego isolates you from the Quality reality.
  23. You’re so sure you’ll do everything wrong you’re afraid to do anything at all.
  24. 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.
  25. Information that fixes one model can sometimes wreck another.
  26. Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce right thoughts.
  27. 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.
  28. 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. When one has this feeling then he also sees the inverse side of caring, Quality itself.
  29. Peace of mind is a prerequisite for a perception of that Quality which is beyond romantic Quality and classic Quality and which unites the two, and which must accompany the work as it proceeds.
  30. This inner peace of mind occurs on three levels of understanding:Physical quietness, Mental quietness and Value quietness  . Physical quietness seems the easiest to achieve, although there are levels and levels of this too, as attested by the ability of Hindu mystics to live buried alive for many days. Mental quietness, in which one has no wandering thoughts at all, seems more difficult, but can be achieved. But value quietness, in which one has no wandering desires at all but simply performs the acts of his life without desire, that seems the hardest.
  31. 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.
  32. The passions, the emotions, the affective domain of man’s consciousness, are a part of nature’s order too.
  33. Your mind gets stuck when you’re trying to do too many things at once.
  34. 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 characteristics of Quality.
  35. 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.
  36. People differ about Quality, not because Quality is different, but because people are different in terms of experience
  37. The past exists only in our memories, the future only in our plans. The present is our only reality.
  38. The reason people see Quality differently, he said, is because they come to it with different sets of analogues.
  39. when the world is seen not as a duality of mind and matter but as a trinity of quality, mind, and matter, then the art of motorcycle maintenance and other arts take on a dimension of meaning they never had.
  40. Changes aren’t always peaceful.
  41. People disagreed with Quality because some just used their immediate emotions whereas others applied their overall knowledge.
  42. If everyone knows what quality is, why is there such a disagreement about it?
  43. Don’t base your decisions on romantic surface appeal without considering classical underlying form.
  44. In today’s world, ideas that are incompatible with scientific knowledge don’t get off the ground.
  45. 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.
  46. The competence of a speaker has no relevance to the truth of what he says
  47. When you learn not to do ‘just what you like’ then the System loves you.
  48. A real understanding of Quality captures the System, tames it, and puts it to work for one’s own personal use, while leaving one completely free to fulfill his inner destiny. Quality is just the focal point around which a lot of intellectual furniture is getting rearranged. If Quality exists in the object, then you must explain just why scientific instruments are unable to detect it.
  49. Any effort that has self-glorification as its final endpoint is bound to end in disaster.
  50. ‘Quality is a characteristic of thought and statement that is recognized by a nonthinking process. Because definitions are a product of rigid, formal thinking, quality cannot be defined.’