Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : An Inquiry Into Values

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : An Inquiry Into Values (Mass Market Paperback)
by Robert M. Pirsig

Synopsis: An autobiographical story of a man and his 13-year old son take a cross country motorcycle trip across the Midwest. Along the way he reflects deeply on philosophy, Zen, the struggle between art and technology and the nature of reality.

Summary: This is one of the most famous popular philosophy books out there. The sparse story line is merely a way for the author to reflect on his ideas. The narrator, Pirsig, tells us how he suffered a psychotic break earlier in his life. His persona before the break he calls “Phaderus”, supposedly meaning “wolf” in Greek.

Throughout the story, the narrator goes into long ruminations, what he calls Chataquas about various topics. He talks about how he is really into maintaining his bike, but his friends who ride motorcycles, are not. They don’t like thinking about the systems and technology behind it. Eventually this discussion leads to the ideas of romantic versus classic views of the world and objective versus subjective thinking. The narrator tells us how Phaderus grappled with this huge ideas, eventually combining Eastern and Western philosophies.

It stems from the idea of Quality. What is it? How do you define Quality? You know its there, but you can’t say what it is. The reason this is, according to the narrator that Quality is pre-intellectual. It is not that objects produce or inherently have Quality. It is that we perceive Quality, and that produces our ideas of the objects. A rather complicated and deep discussion of this follows.

He also talks about other topics such as stuckness, gumption, peace of mind, and the lack of caring in this world. Caring is what produces Quality.

Takeaway: Subjectivity and objectivity are two faces of the same coin. In order to produce Quality, you must care about what you are doing and have gumption.

Seed Science Writing Contest – Outline

What is the future of science in America? What should the US do to preserve and build upon its role as a leader in scientific innovation?

What we need to do is to get people more involved with science. They need to understand its importance to their everyday lives, but more importantly, respect and ASPIRE TO BE the men and women who work in the fields of science and technology.

How can we do this?

Public Awareness Campaigns – I want science to be like serving in the military. However you think of the war on Iraq, we must respec the soldiers who have chosen to serve this country. Likewise, I want our youth to see science is something noble, something that makes this country great, and something they can be a part of.

Expanded programs for getting into science – I think a lot of people might have wanted to become scientists or engineers when they were younger, but then their life moved in another direction. We need to make it easier for people to become scientists and engineers. We need to showcase people who have already done it. We need to create programs and jobs for these “late bloomers”

Getting Scientists into Politics – Only a handful of Congressional members hold degrees in hard sciences. We need to encourage scientists to get into politics because that is the only way science will be taken seriously in the government. In this highly scientific age, we have few law makers and decision makers in the government who understand the issues and what is at stake.

The Takeaway – We need to make science a calling, make it easier for older people to participate, and get scientists into government.

How Do You Feel?

In Ten Ways To Make A Difference, Peter Singer outlines pragmatic ways to create change. The first step he says is to have your finger on the pulse of the public. Know how people are feeling today, and how they could possible feel tommorow. Understand the people.

Now this is no easy task, but one cool tool that I just found can help. It’s called We Feel Fine. Using just a java applet, this site scans blogs for “I feel” and “I am feeling” and displays the results in several cool interactive methods.

The top results?
1. Better (128,000 people)
2. Bad (93k)
3. Good (76k)
4. Right (41k)
5. Guilty (32k)
6. Sick (27k)
7. Same (25k)
8. Shit (25K)
9. Sorry (24k)
10. Well (22k)
..
13. Happy (18k)

18. Lost (14k)

36. Loved (3k)

The list goes on for a long time, with a lot of adjectives and descriptors.

The Takeaway: However you are feeling, someone else is feeling the same way, and many of them are feeling better.

The Paradox of the Human Body

The paradox of the human body is that we are such powerful, yet such frail creatures.

Our bodies are capable of incredible feats of strength, flexibility, speed, endurance and power. Just think of olympic weightlifting, contorsionists, sprinters, Lance Armstrong, and karate masters breaking concrete. The things we can do with our bodies should we train ourselves for them, are simply amazing.

At the same time, we are truly frail and sometimes pathetics creatures, especially when you compare us to other animals. We have no exoskeleton, we have no claws or sharp teeth. The same bones that can break concrete when properly applied, can also snap from a simple fall.

What this all comes down to is that we need to respect our bodies. It is often called a machine, a machine that needs proper tuning and oiling to run well. The best part of the human body is that, unlike a car, when you hurt yourself, time can heal the injury. Try doing that with your dented fender.

I guess I’m thinking about this topic because as I get older, I’m facing up to a lot more injuries, even as I increase my ability to perform skills. My back hurts, my shoulder is bothering me. I’m just trying to stay healthy for 2 more years.

The Takeaway: Respect your body, and it will do great things.

The Seed 2006 Writing Contest

What is the future of science in America? What should the US do to preserve and build upon its role as a leader in scientific innovation?

http://seedmagazine.com/writingcontest/ 

This is an important question, and I would like to write something about it, as it pertains greatly to my blog.  I'll be considering it throughout this week, and hopefully publish something on Friday.  Some thoughts for now:

  • How can we maintain the level of scientific innovation?
  • What should be do about declining engineers and scientists?
  • What can better science education do to solve this?
  • What can better public awareness of science do?
  • How can we make grade school teaching a more prestigious and rewarding occupation?
  • How do get our government to make scientifically sound decisions?

 There are a lot of things to consider, but I think we can and we will do it.

PS I watched some videos of Al Gore on the 2000 campaign.  Just broke my heart, especially after seeing An Inconvenient Truth.  God I wish he had become president.