Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Broken Wing

'Broken Wing' inspired by Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Prisig

But I think the book is about Quality. What is Quality? How do you know you have Quality? Who taught you to discern Quality? Why did they "teach" you that Quality looks like this and not that?
How do you know you got a Quality Education?

"Phaedrus' argument for the abolition of the degree-and-grading system produced a nonplussed or negative reaction in all but a few students at first, since it seemed, on first judgment to destroy the whole University system. One student laid it wide open when she said with complete candor. "Of course you can't eliminate the degree and grading system. After all, that's what we're here for."
She spoke the complete truth. The idea that the majority of students attend a university for an education independent of the degree and grades is a little hypocrisy everyone is happier not to expose. Occasionally some students do arrive for an education but rote and the mechanical nature of the institution soon converts them to a less idealistic attitude.
The demonstrator was an argument that elimination of grades and degrees would destroy this hypocrisy. Rather than deal with generalities it dealt with the specific career of an imaginary student who more or less typified what was found in the classroom, a student completely conditioned to work for a grad rather than for the knowledge the grad was supposed to represent. page 190 from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

The student's biggest problem was 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. And the cart of civilization which he was supposedly was being trained to pull, was just going to have to creak along a little slower without him.

This is the tragedy, however, only if you presume that the cart of civilization, "the system," is pulled by mules. This is a common, vocational "location" point of view but it's not the Church attitude.
The Church attitude is that civilization, or "the system" or "society" or whatever you want to call 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.

page 189-190 Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

"It wasn't any particular point of view that outraged him so much as the idea that Quality should be subordinated to any point of view. The intellectual process was forcing Quality into its servitude, prostituting it. I think that was the source of his anger.

"...when Quality is kept undefined by definition, the entire field called esthetics is wiped out...completely disenfranchised ...kaput. By refusing to define Quality he had place it entirely outside the analytic process. If you can't define Quality, there's no way you can subordinate it to any intellectual rule. The estheticians can have nothing more to say. Their whole field, definition of Quality is gone."
Page 207 Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

He goes over and pulls out of text from 2,400 years ago, Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu.
"He began to read through the lines he had read many times before, but this time he studied it to see if a certain substitution would work. He began to read and interpret it at the same time.
He read:
The quality that can be defined is not the Absolute Quality.
That was what he had said.
The names that can be given it are not Absolute names.
It is the origin of heaven and earth.
When named it is the mother of all things...
Quality (romantic Quality) and its manifestations (classic Quality) are in their nature the same. It is given different names (subjects and objects) when it becomes classically manifest.
Romantic quality and classic quality together may be called the "mystic."
Page 246, 247 of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

These were the quotes that I found important. Because how you define Quality will determine what you value. Quality itself is subjective and yet it is also deduced from our experiences or the experiences of others. How do we know if we are living a Quality life? What did we miss by living the life we chose to live. Or what did we miss by not embracing the life that was given us?
Do we measure ourself by comparing ourself with others? Do we need a score card to see how we "measure up"? What is Quality? Did you need a grade in school to define you? Do you need to put a sticker on the back of your SUV? Do we just believe in branding?

Then what happens when we fall short?
Broken Wing

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