by Robert M. Pirsig, Bantam Books (originally William Morrow Apr 1974), 1989, 0-553-27747-2
An incredible non-fictional auto-biographical book. It contains
many themes, plots, and ideas. The book takes place during a
cross-country trip by a man (the author) and his son (Chris). Pirsig
had done time in a mental institution and received involuntary
electro-shock "therapy"--which is now illegal. The book bounces
between Phaedrus (his former self), the events of the trip, and his
current philosophy. It concludes on a positive note, but there is a
sad afterword (written 1984).
What's extremely interesting is that it was initially rejected by
121 editors. Pirsig has something to say and he was extremely
determined to get it said. It just tells you something about the
book industry in America.
Phaedrus isn't defined clearly at the beginning. Pirsig uses this
to peak the reader's interest--who is this guy? It was very
effective for me. Phaedrus is extremely intelligent, fanatical, and
at the end, Pirsig calls him messianic. The author is fighting with
his former self until the end. He is searching for him. The trip is
about this search. He goes back to the University at which he
taught, but the search doesn't stop there.
Chris was greatly affected by his father's personality makeover.
Although the author is coherent, I think he is cold. Chris
continually asks: What are you thinking about? The author doesn't
answer. Chris is himself having mental problems. He gets pains
which have no physically detectable causes. He cries often. He is
The first part of the book is the travel towards Bozeman, Montana
where the University is. They are traveling by motorcycle. With
John and Sylvia (their friends) on another. It doesn't appear that
they all know each other well, but that's sort of irrelevant.
The author fills the time with what he calls Chautauquas. These
were traveling tentshows [p7] "intended to edify and entertain,
improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and
thoughts of the hearer." The Chautauqua is intermixed with current
events. Each day there is a different theme. All the themes climax
towards the end.
Phaedrus is in search of a fundamental philosophy. He is
dissatisfied with the standard classic-romantic (object-subject)
dualistic model. The Chautauquas develop Phaedrus' philosophy and
the author's current philosophy. Phaedrus is a generalist
(Aristotle) while the author is a detailist (Plato). He explains
this clearly at the end, but it is apparent. Motorcycle Maintenance
is tool used by Pirsig (the present) to explicate the philosophy of
Phaedrus--also explained, but as the philosophy of another person.
As I said, it is extremely complex.
The main theme becomes Quality as the creator of both subjects and
objects. Phaedrus becomes obsessed by this. The author is just as
obsessed, but tempers it. He speaks of craftsmanship and not the
driving force of all we know. It is a very effective
technique: bouncing between the details of motorcycles and an all
Phaedrus had spent ten years in India studying eastern philosophy,
hence the Zen in the title. Pirsig hangs on to Zen thoughts. He
doesn't speak much at all of Judeo-Christian philosophy. Instead of
praying, one meditates to find inner-understanding. The way can be
found in anything; Pirsig uses motorcycle maintenance where others
use Yoga, meditation, hiking (Phaedrus used this, too), etc.
Pirsig meets Phaedrus at the end after a series of long Chautauquas
which are broken by fewer and fewer real time events. The technique
is excellent; the climax is spectacular. He brings it together
without telling the whole story. In fact he leaves out the entire
mental hospital stay and all time up until this trip. It is
unnecessary, but leaves the reader curious. According to the
afterword, he is working on a sequel.
Interesting quotes and passages.
[p24] While at work I was thinking about this same lake of care in
the digital computer manuals I was editing. Writing and editing
technical manuals is what I do for a living the other eleven months
of the year and I knew they were full of errors, ambiguities,
omissions and information so completely screwed up you had to read
them six times to make any sense out of them. But what stuck me for
the first time was the agreement of these manuals with the spectator
attitude [of the hack mechanic] I had seen in the shop. These were
spectator manuals. It was built into the format of them. Implicit
in every line is the idea that "Here is the machine, isolated in time
and in space from everything else in the universe. It has no
relationship to you, you have no relationship to it, other than to
turn certain switches, maintain voltage levels, check for error
conditions..." and so on. That's it. The mechanics in their
attitude toward the machine were really taking no different attitude
from the manual's toward the machine, or from the attitude I had when
I brought it in there. We were all spectators. And it occurred to
me there is no manual that deals with the real business of
motorcycle maintenance, the most important aspect of all. Caring
about what you are doing is considered either unimportant or taken
[p40] When you're stuck together like this, I figure small
differences in temperament are bound to show up.
[p87] To speak of certain government and establishment institutions
as "the system" is to speak correctly, since these organizations are
founded upon the same structural conceptual relationships as a
motorcycle. They are sustained by structural relationships even when
they have lost all other meaning and purpose. People arrive at a
factory and perform a totally meaningless task from eight to five
without question because the structure demands that it be that way.
There's no villain, no "mean guy" who wants them to live meaningless
lives, it's just that the structure, the system demands it and no one
is willing to take on the formidable task of changing the structure
just because it is meaningless.
[p88] If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the
systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left
intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding
government. There's so much talk about the system. And so little
[p93] When I think of formal scientific method an image sometimes
comes to mind of an enormous juggernaut, a huge bulldozer--slow,
tedious, lumbering, laborious, but invincible. It takes twice as
long, five times as long, maybe a dozen times as long as informal
mechanic's techniques, but you know in the end you're going to get
it. There's no fault isolation problem in motorcycle maintenance
that can stand up to it. When you've hit a really tough one, tried
everything, racked your brain and nothing works, and you know that
this time Nature has really decided to be difficult you say, "Ok,
Nature, that's the end of the nice guy," and you crank up the
formal scientific method.
[Rob: He goes on to explain a bit of how to set
up a lab book and experiment.]
[p100] [Phaedrus] coined a law intended to have the humor of
Parkinson's law that "The number of rational hypotheses that can
explain any given phenomenon is infinite."
About this Einstein had said, "Evolution has shown that at any
given moment out of all conceivable constructions a single one has
always proved itself absolutely superior to the rest," and let it go
at that. But to Phaedrus that was an incredibly weak answer. The
phrase "at any given moment" really shook him. Did Einstein really
mean to state that truth was a function of time? To state that
would annihilate the most basic presumption of all science!
[p134] You're never dedicated to something you have complete
confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to
[p147] In any industrial situation a machine that isn't checked out
is a 'down' machine and can't be sued even though it may work
[pirsig says,] "What's really angering about instructions of this
sort is that they imply there's only one way to put this rotisserie
together--their way. And the presumption wipes out all the
creativity. Actually there are hundreds of ways to put the
rotisserie together and when they make you follow just one way
without showing you the overall problem the instructions become hard
to follow in such a way as not to make mistakes."...
"But they're from the factory," John says.
"I'm from the factory too," I say, "and I know" haw instructions
like this are put together. You go out on the assembly line with a
tape recorder and the foreman sends you to talk to the guy he needs
the least, the biggest goof-off he's got, and whatever he tells
you--that's the instructions.[...]"
[p153] [Pirsig says,] "The trouble is that essays always have to
sound like God talking for eternity, and that isn't the way it ever
is. People should see that it's never anything other than just one
person talking from one place in time and space and circumstance.
It's never been anything else, ever, but you can't get that across in
[p163] Quality ... you know what it is, yet you don't know what it
is. But that's self-contradictory. But some things are better
than others, that is, they have more quality. But when you try to
say what the quality is, apart from the things that have it, it all
goes poof! There's nothing to talk about. But if you can't say
what Quality is, how do you know what it is, or how do you know that
it even exists? If no one knows what it is, then for all practical
purposes it doesn't exist at all. But for all practical purposes it
really does exist. [...] What the hell is Quality? ["]
[p187] Up to now Phaedrus had been compelled by the academic system
to say what he wanted, even though he knew that this forced students
to conform to artificial forms that destroyed their own creativity.
Now that that was over with. By reversing a basic rule that all
things which are to be taught must first be defined, he had found a
way out of all this. He was pointing to no principle, no rule of
good writing, no theory--but he was pointing to something,
nevertheless, that was very real, whose reality they couldn't deny.
The vacuum that had been created by the withholding of grades was
suddenly filled with the positive goal of Quality, and the whole
thing fit together. Students, astonished, came by his office and
said, "I used to just hate English. Now I spend more time on it
than anything else." Not just one or two. Many. The whole Quality
concept was beautiful. It worked . It was that mysterious,
individual, internal goal of each creative person, on the blackboard
[p189] It made the kids at camp much more enthusiastic and
cooperative when they had he ego goals to fulfill, I'm sure, but
ultimately that kind of motivation is destructive. Any effort that
has self-glorification has its final endpoint is bound and in
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, is unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the
trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because the 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.
[p193] I was talking about the first wave of crystallization
outside of rhetoric that resulted from Phaedrus' refusal to define
Quality. He had to answer the questions, If you can't define it,
what makes you think it exists?
His answer was an old one belonging to a philosophic school that
called itself realism. "A thing exists," he said, "if a world
without it can't function normally. If we can show that a world
without Quality functions abnormally, then we have shown that Quality
exists, whether it's defined or not." He thereupon proceeded to
subtract Quality from a description of the world as we know it.
[...] If you can't distinguish between good and bad in the arts
they disappear. There's no point in hanging a painting on the wall
when the bare wall looks just as good. [And so on...]
[p224] [Phaedrus answering his colleagues at his school on the
question of Quality.] "Any philosophic explanation of Quality is
going to be both false and true precisely because it is a philosophic
explanation. The process of philosophic explanation is an analytic
process, a process of breaking something down into subjects and
predicates. What I mean (and everybody else means) by the word
quality cannot be broken down into subjects and predicates. This
is not because Quality is so mysterious but because Quality is so
simple, immediate and direct.
[p225] "The easiest intellectual analogue of pure Quality that people in
our environment can understand is that 'Quality is the response of an
organism to its environment' [Pirsig's brackets: he used this
example because his chief questioners seemed to see things in terms
of stimulus-response behavior theory]. An amoeba, placed on a plate
of water with a drip of dilute sulfuric acid placed nearby, will pull
away from the acid(I think). If it could speak the amoeba, without
knowing anything about sulfuric acid, could say, 'This environment
has poor quality.'[...]
"In our highly complex organic state we advanced organisms respond
to our environment with an invention of many marvelous analogues. We
invent earth and heavens, trees, stones and oceans, gods, music,
arts, language, philosophy, engineering, civilization and science.
We call these analogues reality. And they are reality. We
mesmerize our children in the name of truth into knowing that they
are reality. We throw anyone who does not accept these analogues
into an insane asylum. But that which causes us to invent the
analogues is Quality. Quality is the continuing stimulus which our
environment puts upon us to create the world in which we live. All of
it. Every last bit of it.
"Now, to take that which has caused us to create the world, and
include it within the world we have created, is clearly impossible.
[Rob: this is an ancient line of reasoning.]
That is why Quality
cannot be defined. If we do define it we are defining something less
than Quality itself."
I remember this fragment more vividly than any of the others,
possibly because it is the most important of all. When he wrote it
he felt momentary fright and was about to strike out the words "All
of it. Every last bit of it." Madness there. I think he saw it.
But he couldn't see any logical reason to strike these words out and
it was too late now for faintheartedness. He ignored his warning and
let the words stand. [...]
[p226] He began to see that he had shifted away from his original stand.
He was no longer talking about a metaphysical trinity but an absolute
monism. Quality was the source and substance of everything.
[He discusses Hegel's Absolute Mind, but rejects the parallel. He
then struggles with Quality as a metaphysical entity or mystical
entity. The focus of the original relationship is subject-object.]
Then, on impulse, Phaedrus went over to his bookshelf and picked
out [...] the 2,4000-year-old Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu. [...] 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.
[More Tao Te Ching verse/interpretation.]
[p233] It always seemed incredible to me, and still does, I guess,
that Phaedrus should have traveled along a line of thought that had
never been traveled before. [...] So I spent more than a year
Eventually I came to Poincar\'e. Here again there was little
duplication but another kind of phenomenon. Phaedrus follows a long
and tortuous path into the highest abstractions, seems about to come
down and then stops. Poincar\'e starts with the most basic
scientific verities, works up to the same abstractions and then
stops. Both trails stop right at each other'send! There is
perfect continuity between them. When you live in the shadow of
insanity, the appearance of another mind that think and talks as
yours does is something close to a blessed event.
[p241] What guarantees the objectivity of the world in which we
live is that this world is common to us with other thinking beings.
Through the communications that we have with other men we receive
from them ready-made harmonious reasonings. We know that these
reasonings do not come from us and at the same time we recognize in
them, because of their harmony, the work of reasonable beings like
ourselves. And as these reasonings appear to fit the world of our
sensations, we think we may infer that these reasonable beings have
seen the same thing as we; thus it is that we know we haven't been
dreaming. It is this harmony, this quality if you will, that is the
sole basis for the only reality we can ever know.
Poincar\'e's contemporaries refused to acknowledge that facts are
preselected because they thought that to do so would destroy the
validity of scientific method. They presumed that "preselected
facts" meant that truth is "whatever you like" and called his ideas
conventionalism. They vigorously ignored the truth that their own
"principle of objectivity" is not itself an observable fact--and
therefore by their own criteria should be put in a state of suspended
[p250] [Pirsig wants to show negative aspects of traditional
maintenance.] The first is stuckness, a mental stuckness that
accompanies the physical stuckness of whatever it is you're working
on. [...] A screw sticks, for example, on a side cover assembly. You
check the manual[...]
If you're experienced you'd probably apply a penetrating liquid and
an impact driver at this point. But suppose you're inexperienced and
you attach a self-locking plier wrench to the shank of your
screwdriver and really twist it hard, a procedure you've had success
with in the past, but which this time succeeds only in tearing the
slot of the screw.
[p251] Your mind was already thinking ahead to what you would do
when the cover plate was off, and so it takes a little time to
realize that this irritating minor annoyance of a torn screw slot
isn't just irritating and minor. You're stuck. Stopped.
This isn't a rare scene in science or technology. This is the
commonest scene of all. [... This] is the worst of all moments, so
bad that you have avoided even thinking about it before you come to
The book's no good to you now. Neither is scientific reason. You
don't need any scientific experiments to find out what's wrong.
[...] What you need is an hypothesis for how you're going to get
that slotless screw out of there and scientific method doesn't
provide any of these hypotheses. It operates only after they're
This is the zero moment of consciousness. [...] It's a miserable
experience emotionally. [...]
It's normal at this point for the fear-anger syndrome to take over
and make you want to hammer on that side plate with a chisel, to
pound it off with a sledge if necessary. [...]
What you're up against is the great unknown, the void of all
Western thought. You need some ideas, some hypotheses. Traditional
scientific method, unfortunately has never quite gotten around to
saying exactly where to pick up more of these hypotheses. [...]
[p252] We have been looking at that screw "objectively." [...]
[What] we like or don't like about that screw has nothing to do with
our correct thinking. [...] We should keep our mind a blank tablet
[...] then reason disinterestedly[.]
But when we [think] we begin to see this whole idea of
disinterested observation is silly. Where are those facts? What
are we going to observe disinterestedly? [...] The speedometer? The
sissy bar? As Poincar\'e would have said, there are an infinite
number of facts about the motorcycle, and the right ones don't dance
up and introduce themselves. [...] [p253] We're going to have to in
there looking for them or we're going to be here a very long time.
Forever. As Poincar\'e pointed out, there must be a subliminal
choice of what facts we observe.
The difference between a good mechanic and a bad one, like the
difference between a good mathematician and a bad one, is precisely
this ability to select the good facts from the bad ones on the
basis of quality. He has to care! This is an ability about which
formal traditional scientific method has nothing to say. [...] I
think it will be found that a formal acknowledgment of the role of
Quality in the scientific process doesn't destroy the empirical
vision at all. It expands it, strengthens it and brings it far
closer to actual scientific practice. [...]
By returning our attention to Quality it is hoped that we can get
technological work out of the noncaring subject-object dualism and
back into craftsmanlike self-involved reality again, which will
reveal to us the facts we need when we are stuck.
[p255] One doesn't cling to old sticky ideas because one has an
immediate rational basis for rejecting them. Reality isn't static
any more. [...] With Quality as a central undefined term, reality is,
in its essential nature, not static but dynamic. And when you really
understand dynamic reality you never get stuck. It has forms but the
forms are capable of change.
[p263] [...] stylized food in stylized kitchens in stylized house.
Plastic stylized toys for stylized children, who at Christmas and
birthdays are in style with their stylish parents. You have to be
awfully stylish yourself not to get sick of it once in awhile. It's
the style that gets you; technological ugliness syruped over with
romantic phoniness in an effort to produce beauty and profit by people
who, though stylish, don't know where to start because no has ever
told them there's such a think as Quality in this world and it's
real, not style. Quality isn't something you lay on top of subjects
and objects like tinsel on a Christmas tree. Real Quality must be
the source of the subjects and objects, the cone from which the tree
[p264] Peace of mind isn't at all superficial to technical work.
It's the whole thing. That which produces it is good work and that
which destroys it is bad work. The specs, the measuring
instruments, the quality control, the final check-out, these are all
means toward the end of satisfying the peace of mind of those
responsible for the work. What really counts in the end is their
peace of mind, nothing else. The reason for this is that 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. The way to see
what looks good and understand the reasons it looks good, and
to be at one with this goodness as the work proceeds, is to
cultivate an inner quietness, a peace of mind so that goodness can
[p267] Programs of a political nature are important end products
of social quality that can be effective only if the underlying
structure of social values is right. The social values are right
only if the individual values are right. The place to improve the
world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, then work
outward from there. Other people can talk about how to expand the
destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to fix a
motorcycle. I think that what I have to say has more lasting value.
[p272] I like the word "gumption" because it's so homely and so
forlorn and so out of style it looks as if it needs a friend and
isn't likely to reject anyone who comes along. [...] I like it also
because it describes exactly what happens to someone who connects
with Quality. He gets filled with gumption.
The Greeks called it enthousiasmos, the root of "enthusiasm," which
means literally "filled with theos," or God, or Quality.[...]
A person filled with gumption doesn't sit around dissipating and
stewing about things. [...]
[p273] The gumption filling-process 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. [...]
If you're going to repair a motorcycle, an adequate supply of
gumption is the first and most important tool.
[p274] [A] detail that no shop manual goes into but that is common
to all machines and can be given here. This is the detail of the
Quality relationship, the gumption relationship, between the machine
and the mechanic, which is just as intricate as the machine itself.
Throughout the process of fixing the machine things always come up,
low-quality things, from a dusted knuckle to an accidentally ruined
"irreplaceable" assembly. These drain off gumption, destroy
enthusiasm and leave you so discouraged you want to forget the whole
business. I call these things "gumption traps." [...]
Gumptionology 101-An examination of affective, cognitive,and
cr[edits]VII, MWF. I'd like to see that in a college catalog
[p275] As one might guess from a definition as broad as this, the
field is enormous and only a beginning sketch can be attempted here.
[... There] are two main types of gumption traps. The first type are
those in which you're thrown off the Quality track by conditions that
arise from external circumstances, and I call these "setbacks." The
second type are traps in which you're thrown off the Quality track by
conditions that are primarily within yourself. [...] I'll take up
[...] setbacks first.
[...] After days of work you finally have it all together except
for: What's this? A connecting-rod bearing liner?! [...] You can
almost hear the gumption escaping. Psssssssssssss.
There's nothing you can do but go back and take it all apart
again...after a rest period of up to a month that allows you to get
used to the idea. [...]
It should be inserted parenthetically that there's a school of
mechanical thought which says I shouldn't be getting into a complex
assembly I don't know anything about. I should have training or
leave the job to a specialist. That's a self-serving school of
mechanical eliteness I'd like to see wiped out. That was a
"specialist" who broke the fins on this machine. I've edited manuals
written to train specialists for IBM, and what they know when they're
don isn't that great. You're at a disadvantage the first time around
and it may cost you a little more because of parts you accidentally
damage, and it will almost undoubtedly take a lot more time, but the
next time around you're way ahead of the specialist. You, with
gumption, have learned the assembly the hard way and you've a whole
set of good feelings about it that he's unlikely to have.
[p277] The intermittent failure setback is next. In this the thing
that is wrong becomes right all of a sudden just as you start to fix
it. [...They] become gumption traps when they fool you into thinking
you've really got the machine fixed.
[p278] [The next] most common external gumption trap is the parts
setback. Here a person who does his own work can get depressed in a
number of ways. [...] Dealers like to keep inventories small. [...]
The pricing on parts is the second part of this gumption trap.
It's a well-known industrial policy to price the original equipment
competitively, because the customer can always go somewhere else, but
on parts to overprice and clean up. The price of a part is not only
jacked up way beyond its new price; you get a special price because
you're not a commercial mechanic.
[Rob: nice word choice; he didn't
use professional. Too bad he doesn't see the sexism in his writing,
One more hurdle yet. The part may not fit. [...]
But it's always a major gumption trap to get all the way home and
discover that a new part won't work.
[He goes on to describe getting to know your parts dealers, look
for price cutters, bring the part to the dealer (+ evaluation tools),
and finally machine your own parts.]
[p279] Time now to consider some of the internal gumption
traps[. Three main types are:] those that block affective
understanding, called "value traps"; those that block cognitive
understanding, called "truth traps"; and those that block psychomotor
behavior, called "muscle traps." The value traps are by far the
largest and the most dangerous group.
Of the value traps, the most widespread and pernicious is value
rigidity. This is an inability to revalue [p280] what one sees
because of a commitment to previous values. In motorcycle
maintenance, you must rediscover what you do as you go. Rigid
values makes this impossible. [...]
The facts are there but you don't see them. [...]
What you have to do, [...] is slow down--you're going to have to
slow down anyway whether you want to or not--but slow down
deliberately and go over ground that you've been over before to see
if the things you thought were important were really important and
to...well...just stare at the machine. [...]
[p281] [The] most striking example of value rigidity [...] is the
old South Indian Monkey Trap, which depends on value rigidity for its
effectiveness. The trap consists of a hollowed-out coconut chained
to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be grabbed
through a small hole. The hole is big enough so that the [p282]
monkey's hand can go in, but too small for his fist with the rice in
it to come out. The monkey reaches in and is suddenly trapped--by
nothing more than his own value rigidity. He can't revalue the rice.
He cannot see that freedom without rice is more valuable than capture
with it. [...]
[p283] The next one is important. It's the internal gumption trap
of ego. Ego isn't entirely separate from value rigidity but one of
the many causes of it.
If you have a high evaluation of yourself then your ability to
recognize new facts is weakened. Your ego isolates you from the
Quality reality. When the facts show that you've just goofed, you're
not as likely to admit it. When false information makes you look
good, you're likely to believe it.
[p284] Anxiety, the next gumption trap, is sort of opposite of ego.
You're sure you'll do everything wrong you're afraid to do anything
at all. Often this, rather than "laziness," is the real reason you
find it hard to get started.
[...] The best way to break this [trap], I think, is to work out
your anxieties on paper. Read every book and magazine on the
When beginning a repair job you can list everything you're going to
do on little slips of paper which you then organize into proper
sequence. You discover that you organize and then reorganize the
sequence again and again as more and more ideas come to you. The
time spent this way usually more than pays for itself in time saved
on the machine and prevents you from doing fidgety things that create
problems later on.
You can reduce your anxiety somewhat by facing the fact that there
isn't a mechanic alive that doesn't louse up a job once in a while.
[p285] Boredom is the next gumption trap that comes to mind.
This the opposite of anxiety and commonly goes with ego problems.
Boredom means you're off the Quality track, you're not seeing things
freshly, you've lost your "beginner's mind" and your motorcycle is in
great danger. Boredom means your gumption supply is low and must be
replenished before anything else is done.
When you are bored, stop! Go to a show. Turn on the TV. Call
it a day. Do anything but work on that machine. If you don't stop,
the next thing that happens is the Big Mistake, and then all the
boredom plus the Big Mistake combine together in the one Sunday punch
to knock all the gumption out of you and you are really stopped.
My favorite cure for boredom is sleep. [...] My next favorite is
[p286] Impatience is close to boredom but always results from one
cause: an underestimation of the amount of time the job will take.
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. [...]
My favorite scaling-down exercise is cleaning up nuts and bolts and
studs and tapped holes.[...] Another one is cleaning up tools that
have been used and not put away and are cluttering up the place.
This is a good one because one of the first warning signs of
impatience is frustration at not being able to lay your hand on the
tool you need right away. If you stop and put tools away neatly you
will both find the tool and [p287] also scale down your impatience
without wasting time or endangering the work.
The end of value traps, but you're bound to discover more.
[p288] Truth traps are concerned with data that are apprehended and
are within the boxcars of the train. For the most part these data
are handled by conventional dualistic logic and [scientific method.]
But there's one trap that isn't--the truth trap of yes-no logic. [...]
Because we're unaccustomed to it, we don't usually see that there's
a third possible logical term equal to yes and no which is capable of
expanding our understanding in an unrecognized direction. We don't
even have a term for it, so I'll have to use the Japanese mu".
Mu means "no thing." Like "Quality it points outside the process
of dualistic discrimination. Mu simply says, "No class; not one,
not zero, not yes, not no." It states that the context of the
questions is such that a yes or no answer is in error and should not
be given. "Unmask the question" is what it says.
Mu becomes appropriate when the context of the question becomes
too small for the truth of the answer. When the Zen monk Joshu was
asked whether a dog had a Buddha nature he said "Mu," meaning that
if he answered either way he was answering incorrectly. The Buddha
nature cannot be captured by yes or no questions.
That mu exists in the natural world investigated by science is
evident. [...]For example, it's stated over and over again that
computer circuits exhibit only two states, a voltage for "one" and a
voltage for "zero." [...] Try to find a voltage representing one or
zero when the power is off! [...]
The mu answer is an important one. It's told the scientist that
the context of his [p290] question is too small for nature's answer
and that he must enlarge the context of the question. That is a very
important answer! [...]
Time to switch to [p291] psychomotor traps. [...] Here by far the
most frustrating gumption trap is inadequate tools.
[...]Buy good tools as you can afford them and you'll never regret
[Bad] surroundings are a major gumption trap. Pay attention to
adequate lighting. [...] If you're too cold, for example, you'll
hurry and probably make mistakes. If you're too hot your anger
threshold gets much lower. Avoid out-of-position work when possible.
There's one [trap], muscular insensitivity, which accounts for some
real damage. It results in part from lack of kinesthesia, a failure
to realize that although the externals of a cycle are rugged, inside
the engine are delicate precision parts which can be easily damaged
by muscular insensitivity. There's what's called "mechanic's feel,"
which is very obvious to those who know what it is, but hard to
describe to those who don't; and when you see someone working on a
machine who doesn't have it, you tend to suffer with the machine.
[p292] It's the way you live that predisposes you to avoid the
traps and see the [p293] right facts. You want to know how to paint
a perfect painting? It's easy. Make yourself perfect and then just
paint naturally. [...] The making of a painting or the fixing of a
motorcycle isn't separate from your existence. If you're a sloppy
thinker the six days of the week you aren't working on your machine,
what trap avoidances, what gimmicks, can make you all of a sudden
sharp on the seventh? It all goes together.
But if you're a sloppy thinking six days a week and you really
try to be sharp on the seventh, then maybe the next six days aren't
going to be quite as sloppy as the preceding six. What I'm trying to
come up with on these gumption traps, I guess, is shortcuts to living
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.
[p323] My personal feeling is that this any further improvement of
the world will be done: by individuals making Quality decisions and
that's all. [...] We've had that individual Quality in the past,
exploited it as a natural resource without knowing it, now it's just
about depleted. Everyone's just about out of gumption. And I think
it's about time to return to the rebuilding of this American