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Books

On Quality: An Inquiry Into Excellence by Robert Pirsig

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

Key Takeaways

  1. Pirsig’s goals with his books was to raise people’s awareness of quality to its central place
  2. I want to emphasize that when that idea came, there was no preparation for it. It arrived out of my own circumstances, rather than out of a deliberate desire on my part to sit down and write. I wasn’t being separate from what I was doing; this was arising out of what I was doing.
  3. Write about what you know. If you do that well enough, it’ll be exotic enough for others
  4. In any creative project, you can’t imagine what the end is going to be, unless it is a very small thing you’re doing
  5. Normally one’s ability to see what is good marches far ahead of one’s ability to produce it
  6. The ultimate goal in the pursuit of excellence is enlightenment. After that there are no goals, for one realizes emotionally as well as intellectually that all experience is of equal quality
  7. Quality = in tune with reality
  8. Quality, selection, creates the world
  9. I used to give students the advice, “First you just ‘see’ what has quality, then you figure out why. Do’t reverse the process, or you will get all confused”…
  10. 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
  11. Whatever we love has quality, whatever has quality we love. They always go together.
  12. You can ‘practice’ and find quality in all that you do
  13. Quality is at the center of existence, self-evident to all
  14. Dharma = Quality = Duty to self and a duty to quality
  15. Zen meditation is the best route to discovery Quality

What I got out of it

  1. A beautiful, inspiring book. Short snippets on Pirsig’s expanded thoughts on Quality and how his books and philosophy came to be
Categories
Books Worth Re-reading

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

Summary

  1. On his journey from Minnesota to Northern California, the narrator discusses quality and several other philosophical questions through examples and chautauquas. “To truly experience quality, one must both embrace and apply it as best fits the requirements of the situation.”
Key Takeaways
  1. You always temporarily suppress anger towards something you deeply despise
  2. Discusses “ghosts” and how they only exist in the mind. But then he argues that gravity, dead people, science, abstract numbers and more exist only in the mind and therefore ghosts should not be considered a bad thing
  3. Some people are interested in what things mean and others only what they are – romantic vs. classical
  4. Some things you don’t see because they’re so tiny or unimportant you simply overlook them. Other things you miss because they’re so huge
  5. You discuss things in terms of their immediate appearance or their underlying forms. Classical understanding sees the world as its underlying form and romantic as its immediate appearance. Science and facts versus art and feelings
  6. Classical deals with sorting things into piles, classifying them and dividing. A process which never stops. Phaedrus made the attempt of dividing the world into classifications
  7. The ghost which Phaedrus got to was rationality itself.
  8. Billions of dollars are spent to extend life. Only the madman asks why. We live longer so that we can live longer
  9. The narrator and Phaedrus are the same person – split personality which the narrator slowly brings to life and describes his thinking
  10. No system can be changed unless the true cause and not the effects are attached
  11. Within these two systems there are two sets of logic. Inductive and deductive. Inductive inferences begin with actions and then makes conclusions. Deductive inferences starts with general knowledge and makes predictions
  12. David Hume – If all knowledge comes through the senses, does substance exist? Probably not
  13. Kant – some things come from outside experience, are a priori – such as time
  14. If asked what is metal? You would reply it is hard, reflective, cold, etc. but all these things are sensed, are perceptions. There is no substance
  15. Whenever someone is fanatical about something it is because it is in doubt. Nobody goes wild about the sun rising because it is quite sure to happen
  16. When working on anything you must be calm and serene or else you will work your negative feelings into your work
  17. Today’s divorce of art and technology is completely unnatural. They are one and the same
  18. If you look back at the path you’ve taken, a pattern might emerge. You can try to project that pattern forward to see where it might lead you
  19. The narrator gets caught up in trying to define what quality is and when he was a professor he asked his class for help. Nobody had any luck and they determined that quality cannot be defined. However, he argues that something cannot exist if it cannot be defined
  20. Anything whose goal is self-glorification is bound to lead to disaster
  21. By saying that quality cannot be defined he takes it out of the realm of the rational. No more people trying to define what makes art “good”
  22. A thing exists if the world can’t function normally without it. With this, arts, sports and most jobs but would disappear but logic would remain largely unchanged. By this definition quality exists
  23. By holding quality undefined he splits world between Romantic and Classic, artistic and technological
  24. Does quality exist in objects or is it subjective?
  25. Determined that quality is neither mind nor matter. It is its own third group. Quality “gave birth” to mind and matter and is therefore not a trinity but a monism
  26. Quality takes you out of yourself and makes you less subjective. It is at the point of where subject and object meet. Quality is not a thing, it is an event
  27. People see quality differently because they have different sets of analogs – different experiences, memories, filters, etc. If people shared all these things exactly they would see quality the same every time
  28. No pure truths as they cannot possibly apply to every person in every situation. Need to look through life in a broader way – Quality and Truth are in fact one. The ancient Greeks divorced Quality and Truth and this was an artificial divorce which causes a lot of frustration
  29. Believes that quality can tie together religion, art and science like nothing else before it
  30. An egoless mental “stuckness” is a precursor to discovering quality
  31. At the moment of pure quality, subject and object are one in the same
  32. Do not separate yourself from your work, your craft. Instead, become one with it and weave quality into it. This deep caring helps you reach peace of mind
  33. There are three types of quietness – physical, mental and values (no desires) with values being the most difficult to achieve
  34. One of his chautauquas is around gumption and gumption traps. Gumption is enthusiasm and good spirits and a trap is anything which diminishes your enthusiasm or frustrates you somehow. There are both external and internal traps. Internal – value and ego. Value rigidity occurs when you can’t revalue something because of your commitment to precious values.
  35. Values create the objects of the world
  36. Mu questions are extremely important – no definite answer, indeterminate state, not applicable, unasking the question,
  37. Looking at things dualistically is what causes evil – all is one
  38. Aim to make as many quality decisions as this will have a ripple effect and influence others to also make quality decisions
  39. Reason should be subordinate to quality. Should never pursue the reasonable if it is no good
What I got out of it
  1. One of the few books I decided to reread and thought it was equally as amazing. His deep dive into quality is unbeleivable
An interesting summary of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Categories
Books

Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals by Robert Pirsig

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

Summary

  1. Phaedrus, from The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, returns and ponders life’s essential elements as he sails down the Hudson River.
Key Takeaways
  1. Quality is Morality. Quality is Value. They are the same thing. Quality doesn’t have to be defined. You understand it without definition, ahead of definition. Quality is a direct experience independent of and prior to intellectual abstractions. Quality is indivisible, undefinable and unknowable
  2. A thing does not create value, value creates a thing. Therefore, if something has no value it cannot exist 
  3. In Zen, Phaedrus divides between classic and romantic but here the first, and most important, division is into static and dynamic quality 
  4. Dynamic Quality – pre-intellectual cutting edge of reality, source of all things, completely simple and always new. It always comes as a surprise and the first time you are made aware of it, it weakens your static patterns so that all dynamic qualities around you shine through. You become obsessed with something, but normally only a little while because soon it turns static again (favorite song loses its appeal quickly)
  5. Static Quality – what we expect and is necessary to everyday life as it gives structure but when it becomes exclusive of dynamic, they are poor quality
    1. Both static and dynamic quality are necessary for life
  6. Beauty isn’t things trying to look like something else. Beauty is things just being what they are
  7. Nothing has quality as quality can’t be possessed. Quality dominates everything
  8. All life is a migration from static patterns of quality to dynamic quality
  9. Without static quality an organism cannot last. Without dynamic, it cannot grow 
  10. Everything in the world is an ethical activity, not just man’s actions. This binds science and ethics and caused Phaedrus incredible joy 
  11. Whatever is more dynamic, or at a higher level of evolution, is more moral 
  12. Morality hierarchy: dynamic — intellectual — social — biological — inanimate 
  13. “This Cartesian “me,” this autonomous little homunculus who sits behind our eyeballs looking through them in order to pass judgment on the affairs of the world, is just completely ridiculous. This self-appointed little editor of reality is just an impossible fiction that collapses the moment on examines it”
  14. Morality is that which enhances evolution 
  15. Trying to understand a member of another culture is impossible without taking into account differences in their values 
  16. MOQ resolves relationship between intellect and society, subject and object, mind and matter – objects are inorganic and biological, subjects are social and intellectual. they are parallel but not the same and can therefore exist without contradicting each other 
  17. Goes pretty in depth about insanity, his time in an insane asylum and how to resolve it (as he doesn’t believe in “curing” insanity). If there is only one person in the world, could he be insane? Insanity is always relative to others
    1. Sanity is not truth. Sanity is conformity to what is socially expected
  18. When a new fact comes to fruition that does not fit our patterns, we don’t throw out the pattern, we throw out the fact
  19. The only exit from suffering is to detach yourself from static patterns, to “kill” them
  20. Goes full circle and starts thinking about Native Americans again. Native Americans do not think in hierarchy (what type of good) but in quality (a good dog). When Native Americans say it they mean that good is the whole center of experience and that Dusenberry (a good man), was an incarnation of this center of life
    1. Primitive cultures only discuss about actual experiences. They don’t discuss virtue, good, evil, etc. They don’t talk about abstract ideas.
    2. Good is a noun. That was it. That was what Phaedrus had been looking for. Good as a noun rather than as an adjective is all MOQ is about. Take care of your goodness. If you had to reduce the whole MOQ to a single sentence, that would be it.
What I got out of it
  1. In my mind it doesn’t quite live up to Zen but it is an incredible book. It takes some interesting turns where some parts are so intellectual, especially Phaedrus’ inner dialogue, and the rest is almost stream of consciousness and superficial. Shows the divide or dichotomy in Phaedrus and all of us
Great interview with Robert Pirsig
More in-depth analysis of Lila