Lila by Robert M. Pirsig — Chapter 3 Reading and Commentary

 

Chapter 3 is interesting because it presumably lays out what is going to be the theory of reality. I had difficulty interpreting this chapter, because there doesn’t appear to be much hidden. Let’s think about Zamm for a minute. Zamm is a lot of fingers pointing at the moon. While Pirsig spells things out in places, namely where he restructures his view of reality, and also Pheadrus’ detective work at getting to the core of the problem,

In many places in Lila, it’s as if Phaedrus is delivering a lecture on the metaphysics of Quality. In an interview shortly after Lila was published, he said he wrote Lila partly to explain in a more straightforward way what people said they could not understand even after multiple readings of Zamm. This frustrated him, because he says he wished people could just read Zamm once and get it. Which is funny.

The point is, chapter is not hard to understand, so I’m going to use a lot of quotes in this commentary edition, just to give a synopsis of what the chapter is about, with some interpretation, but not much, because it’s pretty straightforward and while it introduces important concepts, and ties in with ZAMM, it’s not really open to that much interpretation.

So about Dusenberry:

Academically he had long before been placed on the TOUGH pile of scholars whom the department would just as soon have gotten rid of. Tenure was all that saved him from the JUNK pile. He had little to do with the rest of the department socially. Other members seemed to be in various degrees of alienation from him.

Remember that Dusenberry was almost relegated to the junk pile in chapter 2. But now he emerges in full force.

…but when Phædrus had gotten to know him, Dusenberry was actually gabby in a high-spirited, gleeful, maiden-auntish sort of way. It was a slightly gay style; tart, and somewhat backbiting; and at first Phædrus thought this was why they were so down on him.

So the description of gay here is actually pretty apt, and if this was 1990 instead of 2020, I don’t think it would be met with offense. I went to art school in New York, and a lot of guys had this style, and they would have agreed with me and would have exaggerated it for laughs and as an art form. Nowadays of course, I feel trepidation saying that, for obvious reasons. But that’s not what bothered the staff at all, IT was Dusenberry’s overenthusiasm with the Indians

…particularly the Rocky Boy Indians, the Chippewa-Cree on the Canadian border about whom he was writing his Ph.D. thesis in anthropology.

Dusenberry had little interest in teaching English, but he immersed himself in the world of these Indians, becoming as much a part of their world as is possible. This of course made him an eccentric to his colleagues. But for Dusenberry, this was the only way to actually learn about the Indians. It was the only way to do anthropology. Certainly, sitting back, observing and taking notes was not doing anthropology.

The main part of his eccentricity seemed to be his refusal to accept objectivity as an anthropological criterion. He didn’t think objectivity had any place in the proper conduct of anthropological study…This is like saying the Pope has no place in the Catholic Church. In American anthropology that is the worst possible apostasy and Dusenberry was quickly informed of it.

This contrast in approaches will be an important element in this book

Subsequently, no University will take him for his phD. So he skirts around this by being admitted to Uppsala University in Sweden. But he fervently stands by his immersion approach:

The trouble with the objective approach, Dusenberry said, is that you don’t learn much that way… The only way to find out about Indians is to care for them and win their love and respect… then they’ll do almost anything for you… But if you don’t do that… He would shake his head and his thoughts would go trailing off.

I’ve seen these “objective” workers come on the reservations, he said, and get absolutely nowhere…

Remember in Zamm, there is a contrast between the ghost of the Indian and the ghost of the westerner – Newton. This gives some insight into an ongoing theme, which is the myth that the Western view of objectivity and rationality is somehow at the top of all knowledge and understanding and is the only true epistimology. Lately we’ve been talking about other ways of knowing, and these other ways fit in well with Pirsig. Dusenberry engages in participatory knowing.

There’s this pseudo-science myth that when you’re “objective” you just disappear from the face of the earth and see everything undistorted, as it really is, like God from heaven. But that’s rubbish. When a person’s objective his attitude is remote. He gets a sort of stony, distant look on his face.

Another observation is that objectivity can be a value trap. Sure, it’s necessary It can keep you from understanding and engaging with the values of the people you are studying – and since this way of seeing the world is based on Quality, on value, then it doesn’t make sense to try to be scientific about the ever-changing dynamics of a group of human beings and their particular social and cultural world. It’s respectful to engage with them this way. Dusenberry indicates that if you just sit back and study them, they don’t like it. Would you? So with the objective anthros, the Indians either dont’ tell them anything or tell the fairy tales.

which of course a lot of the anthros believe at first because they got it “objectively”… Some of these anthropologists make big names for themselves in their departments, Dusenberry said, because they know all that jargon.

So that’s why I’m not objective about Indians, he said. I believe in them and they believe in me and that makes all the difference.

Then what are the implications of not being objective, of immersing yourself in a culture. Well, it probably means you need to act in a way which that culture can accept, which means you have to adopt their values, or at least follow the protocol that come from those values. Dusenberry becomes their mascot and an honorary Indian pretty much. Of course this means he has to keep some of their secrets and not use them in his work, but it’s worth it to him.

Dusenberry, the misfit at Bozeman connects with Phaedrus for obvious reasons:

Here to Dusenberry’s surprise was someone who seemed even more alienated than he was, someone who had done graduate work in Hindu philosophy at Benares, India, for God’s sake, and knew something about cultural differences. Most important, Phædrus seemed to have a very analytic mind.

We certainly know about Phaedrus’ great mind from Zamm, so no surprise there, but what’s amusing here is that both of these guys are misfits and they find each other. Right before Pheadrus is about to leave Bozeman for another job, Dusenberry suggests he come to a ceremony on the reservation.

You’re going to convert me? Phædrus said facetiously.

Maybe, Dusenberry said.

Dusenberry describes the ceremony which ends with a ceremonial meal. And there’s an amusing anecdote he shares about how he was expecting venison and blueberries at the meal and instead they whipped out a canopener and 3 cans of Del Monte.

“No! No! No! Not canned corn,” and they laughed at me. They said, “Just like a white man. Has to have everything just right.” Then after that, all night long they did everything the way I said and they thought that was an even bigger joke because now they weren’t only using white man’s corn they were having a white man run the ceremony. And they were all laughing at me. They’re always doing stuff like that. We just love each other. I just have the best time when I’m down there.

And what better anthroplogy could you do than becoming one of them, so to speak. Dusenberry informs him that staying up all night will involve seekign visions with a “scramental food’ called peyote. Now, Nobody really knows about peyote at the time, about 1960, except anthropologists.

Indians who used it regarded it as a quicker and surer way of arriving at the condition reached in the traditional vision quest where an Indian goes out into isolation and fasts and prays and meditates for days in the darkness of a sealed lodge until the Great Spirit reveals itself to him and takes over his life.

And an interesting observation about hallucinogens which certainly makes sense, and shows how in fact the experience is a hyper-reality. That your day to day states of mind is influenced by a variety of factors, but it is really amplified in the hallucinogenic experience

The experience is determined by the person’s mental state, the structure of his or her personality, the physical setting, and cultural influences.

As hallucinogens grew in popularity, they were deemed unsafe and steps were taken to make it an other hallucinogens illegal. Dusenberry had to testify locally at one point, and regretted being unable to defend the Indian practice. But his hands were tied by his bosses. The battle was framed as a public health issue, but it was really moral. It was also the persecution of a religious minority

The majority opposition to peyote reflected a cultural bias, the belief, unsupported by scientific or historical evidence, that hallucinatory experience is automatically bad. Since hallucinations are a form of insanity, the term hallucinogen is clearly pejorative. Like early descriptions of Buddhism as a heathen religion and Islam as barbaric, it begs some metaphysical questions.

What is insanity is another theme explored in both books. And it is telling how our society feels about being out of control in this sense, out of line, by engaging in this kind of “insanity”. It’s illegal. It’s interesting how we had to actually go through the whole clinical problem of PTSD to finally come to some kind of understanding as to the utility of these vision quests. These substances it turns out actualy help people with major trauma disorders. But it’s only through their therapeutic utility, which other cultures have known about for millenia, that we are even beginning to find them remotely acceptible. And only through the ojective study of science. Well, whatever it takes.

The Indians who use it as part of their ceremony might with equal accuracy call it a de-hallucinogen, since it’s their claim that it removes the hallucinations of contemporary life and reveals the reality buried beneath them.

There is actually some scientific support for this Indian point of view. Experiments have shown that spiders fed LSD do not wander around doing purposeless things as one might expect a hallucination would cause them to do, but instead spin an abnormally perfect, symmetrical web. That would support the de-hallucinogen thesis. But politics seldom depends on facts for its decisions.

In trauma, the de hallucinogen would be that your trauma is your identity. Also, it allows the patient to be able to face and process the trauma instead of it hiding in the background through dissociation and hijacking the patient out of the blue everytime there’s some unconcious trigger.

The physical distance to that teepee from the highway was about two-hundred yards, but culturally the distance bridged with Dusenberry that night was more like thousands of years. Phædrus couldn’t have gone that distance without the peyote. He would have just sat there observing all this objectively like a well-trained anthropology student. But the peyote prevented that. He didn’t observe, he participated, exactly as Dusenberry had intended he should do.

So what this substance does is remove objectivity and immerse Pheadrus in the culture, more than that, into something much deeper

Sometime after midnight, after he had listened to the singing and beating on the drum for hours and hours, something began to change. The exotic aspects began to fade. Instead of being an onlooker, feeling greater and greater distance from all this, his perceptions began to go in the opposite direction. He began to feel a warmth toward the songs. He murmured to John Wooden Leg, the Indian sitting next to him, John, that’s a great song! and he meant it. John looked at him with surprise.

Why should he feel at home? This was the last place on earth where he should feel that.

He really didn’t. Only a part of him felt at home. The other part still felt estranged and analytic and watchful. It seemed as though he was splitting into two people, one of whom wanted to stay there forever, and the other wanted to leave immediately. The latter one he understood, but who was this first person? This first person was a mystery.

Why does he feel at home? Stay tuned for a revelation. But let’s go through this ceremony a little more.

This wild side was saying for the first time, stop wandering, and these are your real people, and that was what he began to see there, listening to the songs and drums and staring into the fire. Something about these people seemed to say to this bad side of himself, We know exactly how you feel. We feel this way ourselves.

The other side, the good analytic side, just watched, and before long it slowly began to spin an enormous symmetrical intellectual web, larger and more perfect than any it had ever spun before.

The division here is exactly Phaedrus and Robert in Zamm but in an odd way it’s close. One is the objective observer, Robert, who keeps at a distance and observes and says the right thing and keeps Phaedrus, the insane side, at bay…then there’s Pheadrus who is a renegade, shaking things up, stating that our mythos which puts truth over value has been wrong all along. Pheadrus is at home with the Sophists, and one could argue, could be at home with the Indians and their values. But we will soon see what this division really is.

The nucleus of this intellectual web was the observation that when the Indians entered the teepee, or went out, or added logs, or passed the ceremonial peyote, or pipe, or food, they just did these things. They didn’t go about doing them. They just did them. There was no waste motion.

There is a simplicity to this way, very much like Zen. Just drawing water and chopping wood.

They just said what they wanted to say. Then they stopped. It wasn’t just the way they pronounced the words. It was their attitude — plain-spoken, he thought…

Plains spoken. They were speaking in the language of the Plains…(both Indian and cowboy) laconic, understated, very little tonal change, no change of expression. Yet there was a warmth beneath the surface that you couldn’t point to the source of.

The web grew wider and wider. They were not imitating. If there’s one thing these people didn’t do it was imitate. Everything was coming straight from the heart. That seemed to be the whole idea — to get things down to a point where everything’s coming straight on, direct, no imitation. But if they weren’t imitating, why did they talk this way? Why were they imitating?

Then the huge peyote illumination came:

They’re the originators!

It expanded until he felt as though he had walked through the screen of a movie and for the first time watched the people who were projecting it from the other side.

Then what follows is a beautiful speech by a Comanche chief at a conference in Washinton in 1867, when the reservations were being set up that truly conveys this way of speaking and understanding. It is spare yet descriptive. What most people would regard as a speech of High Quality.

Any good thing you say to me shall not be forgotten. I shall carry it as near to my heart as my children and it shall be as often on my tongue as the name of the Great Spirit. I want no blood upon my land to stain the grass. I want it all clear and pure, and I wish it so, that all who go through among my people may find peace when they come in, and leave it when they go out.

 

…it was a damn sight better than cowboy speech — but it was still closer to the white Plains dialect than is the language of the European. Here were the straight, head-on, declarative sentences without stylistic ornamentation of any kind, but with a poetic force

It very much resembles the example of arete Zamm, from the Iliad.

Then you may live in Argos, and work at the loom in another womans house, or perhaps carry water for a woman of Messene or Hyperia, sore against your will: but hard compulsion will lie upon you. And then a man will say as he sees you weeping, This was the wife of Hector, who was the noblest in battle of the horse-taming Trojans, when they were fighting around Ilion.This is what they will say: and it will be fresh grief for you, to fight against slavery bereft of a husband like that. But may I be dead, may the earth be heaped over my grave before I hear your cries, and of the violence done to you.”

From that original perception of the Indians as the originators of the American style of speech had come an expansion: the Indians were the originators of the American style of life. The American personality is a mixture of European and Indian values. When you see this you begin to see a lot of things that have never been explained before.

Then Pheadrus talks about this scene at the very beginning of the movie, which I wanted to show you but they took it down for copywright, but look at the opening scene of Butch Cassidy

The voice of an unseen gambler says, Well, it looks like you cleaned everybody out, fella. You haven’t lost a hand since you got the deal.

There is no change in the Kid’s expression.

What’s the secret of your success? the gambler’s voice continues. It is threatening. Ominous.

Sundance looks down for a while as if thinking about it, then looks up unemotionally. Prayer, he says.

He doesn’t mean it but he doesn’t say it sarcastically either. It’s a statement poised on a knife edge of ambiguity.

What Phædrus wanted to do now was use just that one scene as an opening illustration. To it he would add just one explanation which no one ever notices, but which he was sure was true. What you have just seen, he would explain, is a rendition of the cultural style of an American Indian.

the point of Phædrus’ thesis was that the reason it came naturally and that audiences responded to it naturally was that the film reached into a root source of American feelings for what is good. It is this source of what is good, this historic cultural system of American values, which is Indian.

He then points out that the white American is a combination of European and Indian, and proves this by pointing out how an Indian resembles a cowboy, and shares a description of the Cheyenne male, who could just as easily be the Sundance Kid.

In the great depression, people loved to go to Westerns, and spend the little money that had this way

They did so because those movies were a confirmation of the values they believed in. Those movies were rituals, almost religious rituals, for transmitting the cultural values of America to the young and reconfirming them in the old. It wasn’t a deliberate, conscious process; people were just doing what they liked. It is only when one analyzes what they liked that one sees the assimilation of Indian values.

And then he gives some examples of these values. During WWII:

European military commanders rated the stability of American troops under fire as high, and that is also an Indian characteristic.

Then there is our impatience with flowery, manipulative speech:

these well-mannered circumlocutions of aristocratic European speech are forked-tongue talk to the Indian and are infuriating. They violate his morality. He wants you to either speak from the heart or keep quiet. This has been a source of Indian-white conflict for centuries and, although the modern white American personality is a compromise of that conflict, the conflict still exists.

Also:

This anti-snobbery of all Americans, particularly Western Americans, is derived from this Indian attitude.

And our politics as well:

The American politics of isolationism, in its refusal to become entangled in the meshes of European polities comes from this root, Phædrus thought. Most of American isolationism has come from regions that are closest to the American Indian.

. It’s still with us, and accounts for much of the restlessness and dissatisfaction found in America today. Within each American these conflicting sets of values still clash.

So you could argue that part of the problem around the Meaning Crisis, from an American point of view is being still bound to stale Victorian values. Much of the discussion of the origin of the meaning crisis is in stale social values, and that there needs to be an updating of

So how is it that these Indian values entered the culture of the white pioneers?

The early frontiersmen such as the Mountain Men deliberately and enthusiastically imitated Indians. They were delighted to be told that they were indistinguishable from Indians. Settlers who came later copied the Mountain Men’s frontier style but didn’t see its source, or if they did, denied it and credited it to their own hard work and isolation.

And here is where we see the true division that Pheadrus experiences, perspectivaly, during the ceremony. There has been for the modern man a domicide. With the conquering of the Indians was also the conquering of nauture and of individual freedom that implies.

But the clash between European and Indian values still exists, and Phædrus felt he himself was one of those in whom the battle was taking place. That was why he had the feeling of coming home at that peyote meeting. The division he’d felt within himself and thought was something wrong with himself was not within himself at all. What he was seeing was a source of himself that had never been formally acknowledged. It was a division within the entire American culture that he had projected upon himself. It was in many others too.

When it’s pointed out to you, you see this obvious division in two young men who are archetypes of these 2 sides of the american personality. Tom Sawyer and Huck finn. Tom is New Englander, reasonably comfortable in polite society and prone to cleverness,

Huck was a Western person, closer to the Indians, forever restless, unattached, unbelieving in the pompousness of society, wanting more than anything else just to be free.

Freedom. That was the topic that would drive home this whole understanding of Indians. Of all the topics his slips on Indians covered, freedom was the most important. Of all the contributions America has made to the history of the world, the idea of freedom from a social hierarchy has been the greatest. It was fought for in the American Revolution and confirmed in the Civil War. To this day it’s still the most powerful, compelling ideal holding the whole nation together.

Jean Jacques Rouseau is sometimes credited with this idea of freedom, but he got it from America. And the speech by the Comanche chief, an elegy to their freedom, so well exemplifies this.

He got it from the impact of the New World upon Europe and from contemplation of one particular kind of individual who lived in the New World, the person he called the Noble Savage.

The idea that all men are created equal is a gift to the world from the American Indian.

And as Phædrus’ studies got deeper and deeper he saw that it was to this conflict between European and Indian values, between freedom and order, that his study should be directed.

So this division, not beetween classic and romantic as in Zamm, but between freedom and order is where Pheadrus’ studies will go. So I hope that made sense, and I will see you next time.

Paul VanderKlay Revisits the JBP/SH Debates – With Quality

I want to talk about Paul VanderKlay readressing the JBP Sam Harris debates. So he’s looking at this after 2 years of thinking about it, and theres some really great stuff in this video. Naturally, I’m going to associate it with Pirsig, because he’s what I’ve been thinking about for 2 years or so

 

Common project

Jordan and Sam  start with the common project which Sam articulates:

SH – we are both concerned how to live lives worth living, know how to live, how can we make life worth leaving (or meaningful lives).

Now, I’m also going to argue that’s the same project of this corner of the internet. Very broad, but it’s the real question ultimately. And our philosophy is going to inform how we see the world. And in this corner, I think what’s happening is the development of a coherent new philsophy, or an ecology of philosophies lets say

SH – “wellbeing” – rational agents are a guide and can determine this

JP – meaningful life

Harris – we can pull everything out as propositional truths then rationally work on it (rationally manipulating actions and behaviors and then changing them) and that this will, as did the enlightenment, foster well-being (which is a rational concept – you can measure wellbeing with instruments like the quality of life test. Impulse control is behind this entire salvific narrative of rationality – waiting and testing my intuitions and using data. rationality is objective like with language – you can learn it rationally. Theory.

Peterson – Life is essentially difficult, and we have to prepare to accept this – this is in fact where therapy is useful. And by embracing this, we can weather the responsibility and sacrifice that makes life worth living. Also, and my favorite Petersonian concept, that aligning with truth as it presents itself to your consciousness is the way to create a solid foundation that also makes life worth living. Very much like manifesting Quality. So for Peterson, Knowledge is essentially subjective. To learn a language, you have to learn it by being immersed in it, by actually speaking it. Practice

So, if we’re talking about the philosophy that is in the midst of developing, it’s obviously much more along the JBP line. And these dialogs are in fact pretty much the beginning of the desire to articulate a philosophy for the present and future. A game B if you will that has been associated with the word sensemaking. To make sense of combinatorily explosive information that the internet has manifested and demonstrated as objects of information, you need to sense and underlying pattern to it. Weighing facts in a rational way is no longer that useful. We don’t have the time. We need to detect a way of sensemaking that transcends that. This would be a metaphysical structure to our thinking that is pragmatic, that is based on relevance realization rather than thruth, or the Quality as reality.

The common thread is that it is a theory that’s a meaning-based reality that is the metaphysical structure of game b. Not subjects and objects. This is Pirsig’s Quality project. A shift from SOM to MOQ where Quality is the true reality, not subjects and objects.

Metaphorical Truth

A belief that is one acts as though it’s true, they will outperform someone who acts as though it’s false, so that’s Bret so it’s evolutionary. the sense that

But let’s look at the example given:

Plate tectonics and ocean geography vs the spirit in water. In a particular case, the belief in the spirits of the water helped native residents better weather a tsunami.

Now one of my favorite sections from chapter 3 of Zamm where Robert says that the law of gravity is a ghost and demonstrates this by it’s non-existence, and that a ghost is a ghost:

“If that law of gravity existed,” I say, “I honestly don’t know what a thing has to do to be nonexistent. It seems to me that law of gravity has passed every test of nonexistence there is. You cannot think of a single attribute of nonexistence that that law of gravity didn’t have. Or a single scientific attribute of existence it did have. And yet it is still ‘common sense’ to believe that it existed.”

John says, “I guess I’d have to think about it.”

“Well, I predict that if you think about it long enough you will find yourself going round and round and round and round until you finally reach only one possible, rational, intelligent conclusion. The law of gravity and gravity itself did not exist before Isaac Newton. No other conclusion makes sense.

“And what that means,” I say before he can interrupt, “and what that means is that that law of gravity exists nowhere except in people’s heads! It’s a ghost! We are all of us very arrogant and conceited about running down other people’s ghosts but just as ignorant and barbaric and superstitious about our own.”

So until Newton, gravity is another inorganic force that can be defined by any descriptor that emerges from the mythos. So like PVK just said, all our truths are metaphorical including the law of gravity. Why are plate tectonics any worse than describing that particular force than are the water spirits?

Encoded information

I want to bring up the evolutionary structure of the MOQ. What Paul addresses here in terms of MOQ is the interaction between the biological and social level, and some intellectual.

Pauls shows a clip of Bret Weinsten in which he says: human beings are on 2 tracks of inherited information. We inherit more information than we are consciously aware of (therapy explores this). So much is encoded and action and behaviors and are processed by intuition and feeling.

(we are filled with ghosts, biological, social and intellectual)

Humans are not strictly the product of evolution. There is inherited (dna) and cultural information (mythos). There’s a back and forth between our hardware and our software – hardware is biology and software is social, cultural, experiential. Even Robert Sapolsky’s Behave notices this…in fact, in reading this book that is what really stands out is how dynamic the interaction between biology and the natural and cultural environments truly are. 

Now, here’s Pirsig’s description of how we offload information from that same mythos/logos section, which is in chapter 28 of Zamm

The mythos-over-logos argument points to the fact that each child is born as ignorant as any caveman. What keeps the world from reverting to the Neanderthal with each generation is the continuing, ongoing mythos, transformed into logos but still mythos, the huge body of common knowledge that unites our minds as cells are united in the body of man. To feel that one is not so united, that one can accept or discard this mythos as one pleases, is not to understand what the mythos is.

Culture is stored in history, and it’s stored in us. Most of this isn’t conscious. Most of it will never be. The threads of the levels are woven into us. That biology is influenced by the social levels and vice versa.

It also internalizes as the other 3 Ps (besides propositional) of John Vervaeke’s ways of knowing: procedural, participatory, and perspectival.  You react and you don’t know why. You can never ever propositionally know your unconscious. So much is encoded into us. Also, you can’t differentiate between how biology and or culture is manifest.

Because you have so much unconscious material, Multiple values compete , and this is true because according to the MOQ, each level has its values. Remember in Lila biology and intellect cards.

How do we deal with multiple values? MOQ will let us know as we go through Lila. 

Great compression schemes

Great compression schemes that take world and boil it down to stories and systems that we can actually work on. World too big, compressed (religion is the jpeg of a too large world)

God is the compression we need in order to live well in the universe

God is the arena who writes himself into the story – can Frodo find Tolkein in middle earth?

So then Paul mentions something we talked about in our conversation. Which is that I have found that people who are really stuck, who can’t get ahold of something transcendent, they will have a difficult time overcoming that stuckness, because they are going to be trying to solve the problem on the same level it was created. And very typically, that will mean that they can’t really see a way out unless the world lines up in the way they think they want it to, or that they can force themselves not to care, which is of course that rational impulse control that SH thinks is possible. That’s so funny. Either way doesn’t work, because the actual transformation occurs by getting in touch with the noetic dimension, or what PVK calls the theological dimension, or the great compression

People can’t change until they get to the theological level. The theological is the level at which the compression schemes get so tight and boiled down. The data sets are small enough that we can work on them and they are tied all the way out.

PVK Philosophy is similar. So that’s where MOQ comes in, in the sense that it’s metaphysical, meaning it’s what I think is the philosophical parallel of the theological in the sense that it’s at the bottom, it is the most compressed. So whether it’s God, or Quality, or Vervaeke’s real world, I think we are all in agreement that true transformation can’t occur until you can really see the big picture. And the big picture has to be compressed because it’s combinatorily explosive.

And this compression is my favorite aspect of Paul’s revisiting these dialogs.

Values

In terms of God and Quality, I think they are so intermingled. Because the universe is oriented towards the Good, toward evolution, towards improvement, toward what’s better, that orientation towards the Good can be conceptualized in something that God has bestowed upon the universe and the manifestation of God in everything. Any pattern that becomes stable and becomes static is a pattern in which it is valuable enough to stick around. So value, or the good, is inherent within it and it’s created by value.

Fact/value

values have been colonizing facts for a long time, yes, because they create facts. The logos is embedded in the mythos

The term logos, the root word of “logic,” refers to the sum total of our rational understanding of the world. Mythos is the sum total of the early historic and prehistoric myths which preceded the logos.

The mythos includes not only the Greek myths but the Old Testament, the Vedic Hymns and the early legends of all cultures which have contributed to our present world understanding. The mythos-over-logos argument states that our rationality is shaped by these legends, that our knowledge today is in relation to these legends as a tree is in relation to the little shrub it once was. One can gain great insights into the complex overall structure of the tree by studying the much simpler shape of the shrub. There’s no difference in kind or even difference in identity, only a difference in size.

A couple more points –

Stalking the Good vs assuming the Good

Why is Love at the top of the hierarchy – Because Jesus put it there. The agapic love that we were finally able to afford. We no longer needed the punitive God of the old testament. Our mythos had offloaded enough to ensure our survival. So we received a message of the loving God of the new testament. Our technology and our consciousness had evolved to the point where we could afford to embrace this message. And now that is the highest Quality aspect of being human.

So Is it natural to know what the good is?

And this is a very good question. Pirisg would say it is, as demonstrated by his experiment with the essays. Students always agreed on the highest Quality essays. But you have to remove the barriers or traps to detecting that Quality. Thus, that chapter 26 I keep referring to (the Gumption Chautauqua). And Christianity gives us some excellent static patterns of value, shortcuts if you will to the Good. Is it better to go deeper and be able to detect Quality independently of any religion? Of course, but the Christian project is to make you that kind of person who can do that.

 

Lila by Robert M. Pirsig — Chapter 2 Reading and Commentary

This is my 2d entry into the “Lila Project”, which will include a full reading of Robert Pirsig’s second novel, as well as my own commentary based on following the work of Robert Pirsig for a couple of years now, since I fell in love with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and began incorporating elements of the philosophy into my psychotherapy practice, and into my own psychological/spiritual/philosophical development. This project will include a reading and commentary, each approximately every other week, until the book is concluded.

On my channel, you will find my layman’s exploration of ZaMM.

Reading:

Commentary:

When Phædrus awoke he saw through the hatch that the sky had become less black. Dawn was coming.

Then he realized he wasn’t alone. In fact he was blocked physically from getting out of the bunk by a body between him and the boat’s passage way. This was Lila, he remembered.

So Pheadrus’ task is not to wake her up. And what is described here is how you have to maneuver your body on a boat. There are all sorts of limitations on a boat, such as the fact its usually moving, and it’s very cramped. It requires real finesse to negotiate.

It was a grace he’d acquired the hard way. When he first got the boat he walked around like it was a house, slipped on some diesel oil, plunged head-first down the companionway ladder, and broke a collar bone. Now he’d learned to move like a spider monkey, particularly in storms when the whole boat rose and pitched and rolled like a flying trapeze.

So think about that grace and how it works with the real experience of being on a boat. It’s interesting that his human body becomes like that of his ancestor who was so much part of nature. The boat, while being a technological apparatus, is subject to a natural force which it flows through and flows through it. So much like the motorcycle and the road, the boat is in relationship with the water. So you can’t just walk around on it like the bow is a flat surface. You have to move in harmony with the water. With nature. Just like a monkey. Phaedrus had to come in contact with that force in order to align with it. The result of that alignment is a Quality relationship between him and the water…coming out in the form of an animal precursor to a human.

It felt good not to be related to this harbor in any way. He didn’t know what was above the banks of the river or behind the harbor buildings or where the roads led to or who the houses belonged to or what people would appear here today or what people they would meet. It was like a picture-book and he was a child, watching it, waiting for a page to be turned.

So this describes a freeing of a bond with the harbor. Remember he was in the locks and he was stuck there going down the Hudson towards the harbor, and now, he’s away from that binding harbor and out in the open. From this free vantage point, he can disengage from it and he’s able to observe the world go by without being attached to anything. Is that metaphorical?

He needs to heat the place up, and on a boat, this is a bit of a procedure involving alcohol and charcoal and a little stove. Meanwhile, the rest of us sit in perfect comfort on the shore, barely realizing that our comfort is manufactured…we just forget. It takes actually pulling out of that, like camping, to remember.

On the picture-book shore out there everything was done by magic. They got their heat and electricity without even thinking about it. But in this little floating world, whatever you needed you had to get for yourself.

So by being disengaged from the harbor, you see it as a totality. The harbor world and its automatic comforts. Viewing it like a picture book, you can see it in a different way, like you know where the old buildings are, where the gentrification is. Pheadrus notes a pseudo-Victorian flavor to the gentrification. Certainly this phenomenon hit most waterfronts along the East coast really hard in the past couple decades. Could anyone imagine for example what would end up happening to the Baltimore harbor?

As the alcohol fog lifts, and the cold orients him back into the reality of this morning, he finds a large suitcase on his deck.

He saw that her suitcase had shoved all his trays of slips over to one side of the pilot berth. They were for a book he was working on and one of the four long card-catalog-type trays was by an edge where it could fall off. That’s all he needed, he thought, about three thousand four-by-six slips of note pad paper all over the floor.

So here’s where we are going to get some fascinating insight into Pirsig’s actual writing organizational method. He writes on 4×6 pieces of notepaper rather than on pads or in book. And now, as this scene unfolds, he says he’s been working on these for 4 years and that there are 11thousand of them.

Their overall subject he called a Metaphysics of Quality, or sometimes a Metaphysics of Value, or sometimes just MOQ to save time.

The buildings out there on shore were in one world and these slips were in another. This slip-world was quite a world and he’d almost lost it once because he hadn’t written any of it down and incidents came along that had destroyed his memory of it.

So, from ZaMM we know what these incidents were. For those of you who haven’t, It was about 30 sessions of electroshock therapy for his delusions. A lot of severe mental illness was handled with that or lobotomy a the time. The latter was something that almost happened to him. But now that he is Pheadrus again and is back on track with his Quality project, the ideas just keep coming in to the point they are unmanageable unless they can be offloaded.

Now the main purpose of the slips was not to help him remember anything. It was to help him to forget it.

One thing you probably noticed in ZaMM and that you will see here in Lila is that many of the statements Pirsig makes are analogies to describe the underlying principles of his philosophy. This is one of them

There’s an old analogy to a cup of tea. If you want to drink new tea you have to get rid of the old tea that’s in your cup, otherwise your cup just overflows and you get a wet mess. Your head is like that cup. It has a limited capacity and if you want to learn something about the world you should keep your head empty in order to learn it. It’s very easy to spend your whole life swishing old tea around in your cup thinking it’s great stuff because you’ve never really tried anything new, because you could never get it in, because the old stuff prevented its entry because you were so sure the old stuff was so good, because you never really tried anything new… on and on in an endless circular pattern.

The concept of offloading becomes really important here, because you really need to let things go in order to grow. Remember some of the gumption traps? Being stuck in an old value system that you were reluctant to discard is rather described by this tea cup analogy. A value trap. And remember that this is the most problematic barrier to accessing Quality

Here is the whole paragraph describing his system.

The reason Phædrus used slips rather than full-sized sheets of paper is that a card-catalog tray full of slips provides a more random access. When information is organized in small chunks that can be accessed and sequenced at random it becomes much more valuable than when you have to take it in serial form. It’s better, for example, to run a post office where the patrons have numbered boxes and can come in to access these boxes any time they please. It’s worse to have them all come in at a certain time, stand in a queue and get their mail from Joe, who has to sort through everything alphabetically each time and who has rheumatism, is going to retire in a few years, and who doesn’t care whether they like waiting or not. When any distribution is locked into a rigid sequential format it develops Joes that dictate what new changes will be allowed and what will not, and that rigidity is deadly.

So of course Joe is the symbol for that rigid way of thinking that prevents any kind of update to the system. Remember all those rhetoric teachers in ZaMM who were stuck in the Aristotelian mode of enforcing a so called Quality from the top down in the form of rules and regulations concering writing, rather than the bottom up method of allowing Quality to guide the writing. Joes rules

Random access is likely the first actual term that we will be able to identify as a the philosophy that has now been named — the Metaphysics of Quality

Some of the slips were actually about this topic: random access and Quality. The two are closely related. Random access is at the essence of organic growth, in which cells, like post-office boxes, are relatively independent. Cities are based on random access. Democracies are founded on it. The free market system, free speech, and the growth of science are all based on it. A library is one of civilization’s most powerful tools precisely because of its card-catalog trays. Without the Dewey Decimal System allowing the number of cards in the main catalog to grow or shrink at any point the whole library would soon grow stale and useless and die.

His system allows for any idea to be considered, and we shall soon see, there is a place for all ideas. The important aspect of this system is it dispenses with any preconceived notions of what is the Metaphysics of Quality. Just like the Dewey Decimal system accommodates the books that come in rather than only allowing certain books to be placed in the library based on the categories that are already in place.

There were no ideological Joes to kill an idea because it didn’t fit into what he was already thinking…Because he didn’t pre-judge the fittingness of new ideas or try to put them in order but just let them flow in, these ideas sometimes came in so fast he couldn’t write them down quickly enough.

But obviously there’s a downside

There’d been times when an urge surfaced to take the slips, pile by pile, and file them into the door of the coal stove on top of the glowing charcoal briquets and then close the door and listen to the cricking of the metal as they turned into smoke. Then it would all be gone and he would be really free again.

Except that he wouldn’t be free. It would still be there in his mind to do.

And remember in ZaMM what was said about the church or the university. That even when the building is gone, the spirit of the institution still stands. When a revolution tears down an established government, the paradigm doesn’t get torn down, it just gets repopulated with a new hierarchy. Like the Czar is replaced with Stalin and people at the bottom still suffer.

Much of this section deals with the specifics of working with this system, and some of these challenges anyone who has any kind of system will recognize. And this section mirrors a little the frustrations of Gumption Chautauqua. Things that flatten you mostly because you have to start all over again.

One interesting aspect of this is how his being able to articulate and write about this new Metaphysics (a very difficult topic) emerges from this dynamic system of organization. For example, when he’s organizing these cards, and this illustrates the brilliance of this system, he will look at the cards and say “which comes first” Then the next, until you have the cards organized in sequence. Imagine doing that with a bunch of pages or even cutting and pasting on the computer. This is actually more useful than the computer. Even now.

Then what he notices is topics start emerging on their own. Then he can section off the cards with little tabs each for the topic. So instead of making topics and filling them, the topics emerge naturally. This alone illustrates the benefit of this system.

Because his topic is so vast — a new metaphysics, it’s nearly impossible to organize from the top down.

It was fascinating to watch this thing grow. No one that he knew had ever written a whole metaphysics before and there were no rules for doing it and no way of predicting how it would progress.

So yes, it is an entirely new thing, and so this method almost was necessary. But he didn’t have to do it this way, he could have just made a lot of categories he thought would comprise a metaphysics of Quality and filled them in. But he didn’t do that.

So besides the categories that emerge, there are 5 other categories, and we will talk about them, because they are what allows this system to take in any and all ideas

The first was UNASSIMILATED.

These are ideas that come in at the wrong time, when you’re not working or doing something else. Normally your mind says to these ideas, Go away, I’m busy, but that attitude is deadly to Quality.

Now this really hits hard, because just think of all the great ideas you’ve lost because you were to lazy or busy to record them. So already aren’t you beginning to get sold on his system?

PROGRAM slips were instructions for what to do with the rest of the slips…

What made them so powerful was that they too were on slips, one slip for each instruction. This meant the PROGRAM slips were random access too and could be changed and resequenced as the need arose without any difficulty. He remembered reading that John Von Neumann, an inventor of the computer, had said the single thing that makes a computer so powerful is that the program is data and can be treated like any other data. That seemed a little obscure when Phædrus had read it but now it was making sense.

So you can actually restructure your entire system as you are working and the fact you can do this keeps your system open to change, and that’s not going to negate anything you’ve already done, because the categories have emerged independently of the program. If you made the program rigid, you’d be commiting the same mistake. You’d have a bunch of mailboxes that you can acess anytime, but the ones used the most might be stuck in the back of the room. So maybe sometimes you need to change where the boxes are.

The next slips were the CRIT slips.

This is the Festivus pole of the system. These are for airing grievances when the author is in a bad mood. It substitutes for throwing things away. Like when you throw away all your exes clothing, but you realize later that you really liked wearing that one shirt to be, and another thing you threw away was a brand new pair of designer jeans that you could get $120 on Ebay.

The next to the last group was the TOUGH category. This contained slips that seemed to say something of importance but didn’t fit into any topic he could think of. It prevented getting stuck on some slip whose place might become obvious later on.

The final category was JUNK. These were slips that seemed of high value when he wrote them down but which now seemed awful.

The JUNK and TOUGH, end up being the ones that bother him, for obvious reasons and his impulse is to shove them under the rug.

These were the underdogs, the outsiders, the pariahs, the sinners of his system. But the reason he was so concerned about them was that he felt the quality and strength of his entire system of organization depended on how he treated them. If he treated the pariahs well he would have a good system. If he treated them badly he would have a weak one.

So this is an example of the shadow of the system, and we already know that if you don‘t address the entirety of anything, you will lose what could be an important route to the thing you need. So even if these things that look on the surface rationally to be things to throw away, you may need them later.

The hundreds of topics had organized themselves into larger sections, the sections into chapters, and chapters into parts; so that what the slips had organized themselves into finally was the contents of a book; but it was a book whose organization was from the bottom up rather than from the top down. He hadn’t started with a master idea and then selected in joe-fashion only those slips that would fit. In this case, Joe, the organizing principle, had been democratically elected by the slips themselves.

And as we saw, Joe can be voted out if need be.

The JUNK and TOUGH slips didn’t participate in this election, and that created an underlying dissatisfaction. But he felt that you can’t expect a perfect system of organization of anything. He’d kept the JUNK pile as small as possible without deliberately suppressing it and that was the most anyone could ask.

You always have to deal with your shadow. I think this concept drives people crazy who are trying to find spiritual peace. You will always have to deal with a little bit of the devil. AS Alan watts said, the element of irreducible rascality. So as simple as the system sounds, it often caused him a lot of problems. Like a slip fitting into a lot of categories, or slips so odd they fit nowhere. Sometimes the negative piles get too large, meaning the program Joe needs to be re-elected. Etc. on down the line. Nothing worth doing is easy. This book took 19 years to write. But one thing about Pirsig’s writing is that everything ties together. There is not one wasted line. I think this system is partially responsible.

During this sort of review of his system, Phaedrus picks up a tray.

This tray was the oldest one. It had slips he hadn’t looked at for more than a year now.

He brought it over to the table with him.

The first topic, at the very front of the tray, was DUSENBERRY. He looked at it nostalgically. At one time he had thought DUSENBERRY was going to be at the center of the whole book.

And we will read about Dusenberry in Chapter 3. This is one of the real elements, one of the autobiographical elements in this novel. Dusenberry was real. You can look up Verne Dusenberry right now on google.

After a while he took a blank pad from the back of the tray and wrote on the top slip, PROGRAM, and then under it, Hang up everything until Lila gone.

Probably a good idea. Lila has already demonstrated that she’s a big presence on a small boat.

 

Lila by Robert M. Pirsig - Chapter 1 Reading and Commentary

This is my first entry into the “Lila Project”, which will include a full reading of Robert Pirsig’s second novel, as well as my own commentary based on following the work of Robert Pirsig for a couple of years now, since I fell in love with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and began incorporating elements of the philosophy into my psychotherapy practice, and into my own psychological/spiritual/philosophical development. This project will include a reading and commentary, each approximately every other week, until the book is concluded.

On my channel, you will find my layman’s exploration of ZaMM.

Reading:

Commentary:

 

In this second and final novel by Robert Maynard Pirsig, we notice some contrasts with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZaMM). For one, this is more of novel, not an autobiography that has been changed for narrative purposes, but a situation in which the main narrative of the novel did not actually occur in the way it’s presented. There are of course a lot of other parts of the book that did happen, but not the main narrative.
Pirsig did have a boat which did become like the motorcycle for him in terms of the Zen and the Art of Sailing. His boat’s name was Arête. However, his partner on this journey was his wife Wendy, not a troubled bar denizen named Lila.

Another difference, which I think is more significant, between this book an ZaMM is that in ZaMM, the journey is very wholesome. It’s a father and son traveling with his married friends. Here in Lila, we encounter a sordidness that was no where to be found in ZaMM. We open the journey of Phaedrus with him waking up in a likely hung-over daze, with a floozie called Lila, who he picked up in a dive bar.
So there are several themes in this chapter that I will explore here, beginning with:

Lila as archetype: child-whore-goddess, synchronicity

Lila is depicted as series of archetypes –

She is this floozie, the whore, who is used to picking up men and then trying figure out how to escape the next morning in a hung-over daze.

There’s the innocent child Lila, who Lila still bears resemblance to in moments and when she’s asleep, or when the light catches her a certain way unawares. The child she once was before whatever life threw at her.

There’s the eternal Lila, the Goddess, who I think he’s referring to as Leela, the embodiment of the dynamic creative activity of God, that which cycles through and animates then goes on its way.

These half-forgotten images are strange, he thought, like dreams. This sleeping Lila whom he had just met tonight was someone else too. Or not someone else exactly, but someone less specific, less individual. There is Lila, this single private person who slept beside him now, who was born and now lived and tossed in her dreams and will soon enough die and then there is someone else - call her Lila - who is immortal, who inhabits Lila for a while and then moves on. The sleeping Lila he had just met tonight. But the waking Lila, who never sleeps, had been watching him and he had been watching her for a long time.

The waking Lila expresses herself through her baby-blue eyes which in turn, evoke the child she once was and hold a pure illumination through her x-rated adult self.
He remembers the times he thinks he saw her in the past, and these have a profound effect on him.

But that was so long ago - years and years ago. She would have changed. There was no chance that this was the same person. And he didn’t know her anyway. What difference did it make? Why should he remember such an insignificant incident like that all these years?

Perhaps it’s because these times become all the more important in retrospect, that these memories become significant when they are linked together by this present Lila. Synchronicity? As it turns out, Lila hasn’t been to the midwest.
One thing she does tell him: A lot of people look like me.

Time & Space

Time and space are addressed individually, but they are also interrelated. Time opens up space and vice versa.

There is not much time, says Phaedrus. He needs to get south before cold weather causes trouble for sailing, but time’s also running out in some other ways. He’s a middle aged guy and time is passing. Maybe pushing him to briefly act like a teenager while he still can.

An unexpected gap of time had opened up. The reaction of everyone at first was frustration. To sit around and do nothing, that was just terrible. The yachtsmen had been busy about their own private cruises not really wanting very much to speak to anyone else, but now they had nothing better to do than sit around on their boats and talk to each other day after day after day. Not trivially. In depth. Soon everyone was visiting somebody on somebody else’s boat. Parties broke out everywhere, simultaneously, all night long…

Being forced to take time that you think you can’t take opens up opportunity as it did in what the captains of all the boats thought they were facing catastrophe, really turned around into something everyone probably needed. Time to just be with one and other and connect

Tides! he had thought. That meant sea-level. It meant that all the inland man-made locks were gone. Now only the passage of the moon over the ocean controlled the rise and fall of the boat.

All the way to Kingston this feeling of being connected without barriers to the ocean gave him a huge new feeling of space.

The space was really what this sailing was all about

‘I think what we’re buying with these boats is space, nothingness, emptiness… huge sweeps of open water… and sweeps of time with nothing to do… That’s worth a lot of money. You can’t hardly find that stuff any more.’

Rigel doesn’t buy Pheadrus’ assessment of space.

There’s no space here… It’s all crowded with history. It’s all dead now but if you knew this region you’d see there’s no space. It’s full of old secrets. Everyone covers up around here.

He asked Rigel, What secrets?

Nothing’s the way it seems, Rigel said. This little creek we’re on here, do you know where it leads? You wouldn’t think it goes back more than a few hundred yards after it completes that turn back there, would you? How far would you guess you could go, on this little tiny creek here, before it stops?

Phædrus guessed twenty miles.

Rigel smiled. In the old days, you’d go forever, he said. It goes all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. People don’t know that any more.

For Rigel, there is no space because everything is crowded with the residue of time, and it’s important to see that residue, because the past is a force that needs to be acknowledged. His own family had been here since the Revolutionary war, only moved away 30 years ago (about the time ZaMM was written). To think that there is all this space where there isn’t would be to discount the past. And the past of Rigel’s family is respectable. He’s got the DAR cred and his family were successful turn-of-the-century businessmen.

Time and space are also indicated in the ties to the land. The space between Europe and the American Frontier are apparent.

As the boat moved south he’d seen a growing aura of social structure, particularly in the mansions that had become more numerous. Their styles were getting more and more removed from the frontier. They were getting closer and closer to Europe.

Rigel’s Morality

Rigel He has a stodgy quality about him, he seems to think in black and white terms, and he indicates clearly that we Americans of today are not moral…not like the Canadians

Two of the Canadians at the bar were a man and a woman up against each other so close you couldn’t have slipped a letter-opener between them. When the music stopped Phædrus motioned to Rigel and Capella to notice them. The man had his hand on the woman’s thigh and the woman was smiling and drinking as though nothing was happening.

Phædrus asked Rigel, Are these some of your moral Canadians?”

…at least the ones who think our culture is junky, because he has to backtrack from his absolute statement to the duality that there are some Canadians who like that. He certainly doesn’t approve of Lila who he has known a long time. She’s worse than tacky, she’s from the sewer, says Rigel.

Light as States of Mind

Here’s a map of where he was:

fullsizeoutput_98b

and here is a picture of the locks just so you can get a sense of how chaotic, how hellish it might have been to be coming down these in the middle of the night having to navigate.:

Lockport_Postcard_ca1880_Locks_868

His chart had shown a series of locks close together but they didn’t show altitude and they didn’t show how confusing things could get when distances have been miscalculated and you are running late and are exhausted. It wasn’t until he was actually in the locks that danger was apparent as he tried to sort out green lights and red lights and white lights and lights of locktenders’ houses and lights of other boats coming the other way and lights of bridges and abutments and God knows what else was out there in that black that he didn’t want to hit in the middle of the darkness or go aground either. He’d never seen them before and it was a tense experience, and it was amidst all this tension that he seemed to remember seeing her on another boat.

Lila appears like a beacon n the midst of all those lights, at least in his memory. The waking, eternal Lila, appears as an illumination that radiates from behind the face of our Lila when she’s talking to him at the bar.

She said, Where have I seen you before?

A cliché, he thought,…God, it was her, the one on the streetcar and she’s asking, Where have I seen you before? and that was what started the illumination.

It was stronger toward the center of her face but it didn’t come from her face. It was as though her face were on the center of a screen and the light came from behind the screen.

But that illumination fades as eternal Lila recedes into the background, and present day Lila, manifests in front of him. The flesh and blood Lila who really has none of the magic of Lila.

There are also the lights of the disco function attached to the jukebox, that, along with several cans of ale, put him into a liminal state of not knowing or caring - just getting caught up in the reverie of dancing and drinking with Lila. Is she the one? Yes she is…She is the one. She has been for a long time, she has been in his soul, his anima. And now definitely in the flesh, tonight.

…all he could see was Lila and the lights whirling around and around.

Around and around. And around and around - red and blue and pink and orange and gold. They were all over the room and they moved across the ceiling and sometimes they shined on her face and sometimes they shined in his eyes - red and pink and gold.”

Sex and Biology

There is a lot about the lure of sex on a primal level. You could call it biological. The biological urges rise to the surface as the highest Quality thing to do.

He studied Lila some more: her legs were crossed and her skirt was above her knees. Wide hips. Shiny satin blouse. V-necked and tucked tight into a belt. Under it was a bustline that was hard to look away from. It was a defiant kind of vulgarity, a kind of Mae West thing. She looked a little like Mae West. C’mon and do something, if you’ve got the nerve, she seemed to say.

Some X-rated thoughts passed through his mind. Whatever it is that’s aroused by these cues isn’t put off by any lack of originality. They were doing all kinds of things to his endocrine system. He’d been alone on the water a long time.

DO A LITTLE DANCE…
MAKE A LITTLE LOVE…
GET DOWN TONIGHT…
GET DOWN TONIGHT…”

Impact of Music

The biological urges are further enhanced by the song that plays on the jukebox. It seems like a black sermon in its presentation, but not a call to come to Jesus, it’s a call to “get it together”. It is an immoral sermon - one that calls people to guilt-free sex. So a question - Are these two middle aged people finally “getting together” after all these years, on the first night they meet each other, immoral?

The song pervades throughout the scene in the bar as Pheadrus leaves the world of consciousness and enters that liminal state of intoxication. The music further and further suggesting his next course of action.

So Pheadrus falls asleep at the end of chapter 1 musing on how, when you don’t try, sometimes you get what you have been hoping for for years. Him of all people! With his big nose and social awkwardness Will this be a good thing? We shall see.

 

7 Steps to Get out of the Your Procrastination State (and get your Creative Juices Flowing)

I think I have some reasonably good ideas pertaining to understanding and working with parts of self. In fact, I have an ongoing project that I am undertaking around this topic which fulfills me intellectually and spiritually and that I hope will help both my patients and myself. During the course of any given day, I might have insights and ideas pertaining to this project that I will jot down into one of my many composition books, or if one is not within arms reach, a random slip of paper. For some reason, in bed at night I tend have the most profound ideas, and often I can even muster the discipline to turn on the light grab my comp book and make a note.

Multiple-Personality-DisorderYet, when I am ready to sit down and write, to pull it all together, one of my parts emerges with a vengeance and dominates my personality. It is Procrastination. When under the spell of Procrastination, have a sudden urge to do anything but work. In fact in between this sentence and the last, one of my parts, Ms. Procrastination, compelled me to spend 17 minutes scrolling Facebook.  So what is it about the task of having to write that is so damn painful that I have to distract myself with something mindless, and how to I switch out of this state?

It is as if the sensation of this part is physically holding you back from what you know to be the greater good, that it is dead-set on keeping you away from what you are doing and attending to it. Most of us know that Procrastination is a member of our internal family, and it may seem a more formidable sub-personality in people trying to produce creative content. In me Procrastination is characterized by a daunting feeling of futility that sets in when I get the idea to start the project, as well as a desire for instant gratification. It’s as if she’s telling me that the hard work I am considering embarking on won’t result in anything and why not just enjoy myself?

I also think also many of us who want to be create content, start businesses, or produce art are daunted by the sheer productivity of famous people who really are doing so. A best-selling author recently said that he gets up early, and works non-stop “as hard as I can” for 16 hours. Elon Musk, arguably the most productive person on the planet, also works continually and needs less sleep than the average person – 6 hours or so. I have heard tell of some insanely productive people are blessed with the need for as little as 3-4 hours a night.

But most of us don’t live this super-productive paradigm. This admission is realistic, as is the notion that most of us will never be Elon Musk. However that doesn’t mean we can’t be productive and create content of significance or beauty in it’s own right, and maybe even that will improve the world. But to do this, however, means to overcome the negative state of mind that besets us when we embark on something that requires us to be actively involved in the difficulty of creating something, rather than engaging in the vicarious thrill of passively experiencing the inner world of Elon in this Joe Rogan interview.

So, we need a plan to gently put Procrastination aside for a period of time. And in the spirit of us all contributing to the self-and-world improvement project I will share some strategies.

1. Schedule a Block of Time

This is something that everyone who gives productivity advice tells you. You need to schedule writing time. And there is a reason for this. Because it works. The first step in convincing yourself to work is to schedule it as necessary – as if it is part of your job.

Graham Green, one of the 20th century’s most notable authors would work religiously from 8-12, then take the rest of the day off. Naturally, as I often do, I must mention Robert Pirsig, the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, who rose in the middle of the night to work on his great autobiographical novel before going to his job in the morning. Herman Melville, EB White and many of the greats had a set routine for writing.

No question a routine is necessary, which for practical purposes can manifest as a set block of time. But how much time? It has been demonstrated that approximately 3 hours in a day is the maximum amount of time you can fully concentrate on anything and still remain productive. This is heartening, because it means you can relieve yourself of the notion that of devoting excessive amounts of time to your project will make you more virtuous.

So, why not have 1 hour a day that you devote to your creative endeavor. Most of us can manage this. Then, perhaps try those 3 optimal hours of production on the weekend. Think of these slots as necessary parts of your day, and schedule them on your calendar

2. Turn Off the internet

I could go into detail as to why this is a non-negotiable step in the process of avoiding procrastination, but I think we all know the reasoning behind this critical of steps. You can access all manner of data and scientific evidence of the detrimental impact of excessive interaction with your phone.

Let’s make no bones about it. The internet, and social media in particular is the biggest time suck there is. And it’s extremely addictive. Listen to these giants of tech expound on the problematic nature of social media:

So, enough said about this step. It is necessary.

3. Use Active Imagination

The great psychologist Carl Jung forced himself to sit alone in his office for 2 hours a day, and allow his imagination to run wild. The result of many years of this regular practice was his masterpiece, “The Red Book”. His dedication to this block of time to just be with his unconscious resulted, after several years, in a work of profound psychological depth and beauty.

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Sit there in front of your screen or notebook, and rather that becoming frustrated with lack of creativity. Just sit with your mind and let your unconscious take over. Keep the project in mind, but don’t distress if your mind wanders a bit. If you have the goal in mind, have faith that the unconscious will help you if you give it some leeway.

4. Have a Related Side Project

Say you are really stuck. Your frustration or blankness is simply too impenetrable. A good antidote to pursue a fairly rote or even mindless task that has to be done pertaining to your project so the aggravation of having to produce ideas from the blue is temporarily assuaged.

A good strategy for me to use during my scheduled time is making notes from a book that I need to read and digest for the project anyway. Some other examples of segueing into a related project if, say, you are working on something artistic, would be to sketch out related images, or practicing scales or a song you are otherwise trying to master, if working on something musical. Or your could organize your paperwork, review your notes or again, if writing or doing videography, just do a little fine tuning or editing of what you have so far.

This approach solves 2 problems: 1. You aren’t faced with a blank sheet, blank surface and a blank mind, you actually are using your scheduled time and it does not require any exceptional creativity to make notes. 2. It keeps you away from filling that gap with those oh-so-familiar distractions you rationalize as “productive”, such as pairing your socks, doing the dishes, or cleaning the dust bunnies from under your couch.

5. Sub-Schedule a Break

Depending how long you plan to work, schedule a mid-way break. If you are working longer than an hour, schedule quarterly breaks. For example, every 45 minutes, give yourself 5 minutes to unwind, do a few reps with hand weights or run up and down the stairs, play with your cat, make a short personal call…again anything but getting on the internet!! Don’t go down that Rabbit Hole! But do give yourself a chance to regroup and then return at least partially refreshed.

6. Reward

“Give yourself a reward engages our basic instincts for something pleasurable at the end of a period of difficulty.

Graham Green, who I previously mentioned, would finish his work at 12pm, then go for daiquiris before lunch and spend the afternoon lunching with friends. Now, remember Green was writing in the middle part of the 20th century, where views of alcohol consumption were quite different. Think Mad Men. So obviously, I don’t recommend alcohol as a reward, but I do recommend scheduling a fun event, a romantic interlude, taking a walk in the park, a healthy snack like a Keto fat bomb, or if you have a regular practice – a meditation session. Which brings me to…

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7. Meditation

Yes, I know I continually recommend meditation, but there’s a reason. This is a practice that will both decrease the occurrence of negative emotion bubbling to the surface (including that depressive feeling of futility) and increase your capacity for concentration. All creative souls should have a meditation practice of some sort. So get in the habit of this – start with 5 minutes, use an app like Headspace, or a wonderful personal neurofeedback device called Muse.

While you can incorporate meditation in the breaks or as a reward (if you are so inclined), it is really an ongoing support of your project. It is also a method to care for the mind and the soul that has demonstrated with robust evidence as to it’s positive benefit across all domains of life.

It is also important to be aware of your capacity for distraction and for the characteristic negative feelings toward difficult creative tasks from your Procrastination part that prevent you from working. With meditation comes the increased skill of mindfulness that we can use to notice Procrastination and gently ask her to let us be for now, that we will get to her needs for more passive entertainments when we are through.

So there you have it. 7 ways to tackle this substantial and mostly universal state called Procrastination. Surely there are countless additions to this list, but these tend to work for me so far. And remember, the state of Procrastination is one that most of us have in our cast of inner characters. Like any of our troublesome parts, she needs to be respected and worked with, not against. If we malign any of our states and try to get rid of them; to suppress them, they will furtively find a way to undermine us…like those 17 minutes of Facebook, because I “somehow” forgot to put the iPad on airplane mode!!

A Philosophy Whose Time has Come – Plus, Book Club Anyone?

I think the MOQ is a philosophy whose time has come. I will reiterate why it’s time to take this seriously. We need a way of seeing things that tap into the eternal pattern of the universe. This may sound airy-fairy but it’s is far from that in my opinion. In fact, two very functional philosophies, Zen Buddhism and James’ pragmatism can marry up to be so useful as a way to operate in the world as in the metaphysics of Quality.

In Zamm, Phaedrus realizes that hypotheses are pretty much infinite. So how do you figure what’s right? What’s best? That was the catalyst for finding the Ghost of Reason (that said there was a Good that could be arrived at dialectically), and thrashing it good. Phaedrus knew a new metaphysics was in order. One that could discern the best facts. So, we need a new way of conceptualizing what’s best, otherwise, we’re stuck relying on reason for this job, and as we see nowadays, from the same facts you get both Yanni and Laurel.

So you see why it is being said facts don’t matter? Because information has become so complex that our old Subject/Object metaphysics (SOM) can’t handle it anymore. Remember that in The Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, once language became sufficiently metaphor-rich, people became able to hold abstractions in mind, and they didn’t need the Gods anymore. Now we don’t need the Ghost of Reason as we once did.

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I want to see if anyone is interested in reading ZAMM with me. I’ve read it and listened to it a few times, but now I want to go back and read it more carefully with special emphasis on tracing the evolution of the MOQ, I think.

So my question is to you all, is should we do some kind of book club? Maybe have a dialog in the comment sections. OR even if Anyone who is interested, we could do some split screen discussions which I can post. Let’s get this show on the road!

A New Problem, and Old Friend

 

As I’ve been working on this way to use Pirsig’s work and theories to apply to actual life Like I said I’ve had to take a step back and realize mountain ahead I have to climb before I get there. But there is one tenet that has started to consolidate.

So the early iteration of this tenet might be:

Rather than taking political sides, attempt to see all points of view before making a Quality decision.

Why does this fit into Pirsig? Because the mechanism of Quality is to sit with the facts and allow the best ones to emerge. The ones that have Quality. And remember, Quality isn’t a thing, it’s an ongoing emergence. What is prescribed by Pirsig seems to me, so far, to be in a state of consciousness that allows this emergence. This is the state Peace of mind and of caring about what you doing.

I’d like to elaborate on this though.

As we find ourselves in the middle of a culture war, that just keeps escalating, what is going to pull us out of this is probably something like transcending to the Teal level that Ken Wilber is describing in his theory. This means, learning how to step outside yourself and your opinions, and survey the landscape of human experience.

I think there are several thinkers out there trying to bridge the gap. But The one that has worked the best for me is Jon Haidt. In his social intuitionist model, he states that intuition comes first and reasoning comes after a judgment is made, in order to justify your opinion or actions to others.

Haidt calls the emotional responses of the limbic system of the brain the elephant and rationality the rider. This is basically a paradigm shift of how we view the way we are, but it’s an important one, which is why one of the preeminent neuroscientists Damasio called his most famous book “Descartes Error” So it’s actually, I am therefore I reason.

So, in my last video, I mentioned that Jonathan Haidt recommended reading Dale Carnegie, and he’s right

Here’s what he says on page 57 of the righteous mind:

If you want to change people’s minds, you’ve got to talk to their elephants. You’ve got to use links 3 and 4 of the social intuitionist model to elicit new intuitions, not new rationales

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To go on:

Dale Carnegie was one of the greatest elephant-whisperers of all time. In his classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Carnegie repeatedly urged readers to avoid direct confrontations. Instead, he advised people to “begin in a friendly way,” to “smile,” to “be a good listener,” and “never say ‘you’re wrong’”. The persuader’s goal should be to convey respect, warmth, and an openness to dialog before stating one’s own case. Carnegie was urging readers to use link 4, the social persuasion link, to prepare the ground before attempting to use link 3, the reasoned persuasion link.

Then he goes on to say

From my description of Carnegie so far, you might think his techniques are superficial and manipulative, appropriate only for sales people. But Carnegie was, in fact, a brilliant moral psychologist who grasped one of the deepest truths about conflict. He used a quotation from Henry Ford to express it: “If there is any one secret of success it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from their angle as well as your own.”

Carnegie realized that if we do in fact see things from their angle, our own elephant may be transformed as well. That may be what people are afraid of, in fact. To be as open as he prescribes takes us out of the Righteous mind, and possibly into that State that ZAMM describes in the Gumption Chautauqua, and that I will use this book – very helpful btw – to describe:

When through caring and Peace of Mind we allow Quality to stimulate ad guide the fusion of subjectivity and objectivity into creative discoveries and illuminating creations.

And I will be using that quote again, I am sure.

So, one time long ago, before the culture war we had Good Manners. Good manners have social Quality. Let’s bring them back! This book is a very good primer.

 

Dale Carnegie, Taming the Elephant, and Self Transcendence.

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My Wartime edition of the Carnegie Classic

I never would have considered reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People if it had not been for Jonathan Haidt’s great book, The Righteous Mind – Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. After all, the title indicates it might be full of superficial strategies to get people to like you so you can sell them stuff. That did not turn out to be the case. You can see in the picture above, I read this book literally, “to death”. But a caveat – this is a 1945 Wartime edition and was meant to serve an immediate purpose, as well as being frugally produced for the war effort, so not particularly durable.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, one of the most useful ideas to come from Haidt’s book is the analogy of a person’s point of view to a rider and elephant. The elephant, for simplicity, the more “primitive” cognitive mechanisms decide on something, and the rider of the elephant “reason”, a more “advanced” mechanism acts as a lawyer, advocate or PR guy to justify the elephant’s decision rather than – as you might think – coolly weigh the evidence and formulate the most logical opinion. Haidt characterizes Carnegie as a “brilliant moral psychologist” who knows how to “talk to the elephant”; to appeal to emotions, which is the only way to actually begin any kind of meaningful relationship with another person – be it business, political or personal.

Of the elephant, Carnegie says: “When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.” The rider will “…attempt by a form of reasoning, either fallacious or logical to justify their…acts”. But do not dwell on the negativity inherent in these assessments. In order to understand people, it is necessary to begin with a clear-headed view of human nature. This realistic psychological profile is the beginning of a series of strategies to decrease defenses and increase genuine communication in a way that would make Carl Rogers proud.

Carnegie’s little book, in diameter only as it is a tight 287 pages, is chock full of the sort of advice that memes and affirmations attempt to convey in a simplistic and ultimately lackluster fashion. In contrast, this book is neither simplistic nor lackluster. Instead, it is a deep and vibrant investigation into human nature with a genuine heart of research conveyed with accessible language and numerous examples. In order to demonstrate the universal applicability of his theory,  Carnegie references the stories of well known businessmen and celebrities of the time, but more importantly lavishly shares the insight of the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Teddy Roosevelt, and Freud and the early psychologist William James, as well as the timeless wisdom of the Buddha, Lao Tzu and Jesus Christ. In four sections, he succinctly summarizes ways that the greats have learned to productively deal with other people on a daily basis, in some of the most harrowing and history-altering circumstances, and in some in ways that permanently changed the morality of immense groups of followers for centuries after.

And what of the advice? Geniuses have a way of articulating things we already know but have failed to properly investigate. The book is filled with observations of ways to engender positive relations, among which are:

  • “Criticism is futile”, he says. It only puts people on the defensive and all the more determined to maintain fixedly their point of view in response to their wounded pride. Nobody responds well to criticism, no matter how correct the criticism seems to be. (This certainly played out in our momentous election)
  • People want to feel important. It is among the greatest of desires, and there is always something you can genuinely admire in someone else if you are willing to look for it. Let them know what it is! Holding someone in esteem gives them a noble ideal to live up to – and people will do their best to do so.
  • Take an interest in people. Listen carefully to what they have to say, and find something that sticks out. It might take a little patience, but eventually, anyone will say something that strikes you. From here you can begin to connect.
  • From Ben Franklin: Don’t directly contradict someone, and don’t convey a fixed opinion with the dogmatic words “always” “never” “undoubtedly”, etc. Observe that in certain cases, a person’s point of view may be correct, even if it is not completely so in this case.
  • Have the guts and the self-control to listen to people’s tirades. They are venting – once this anxiety is discharged, the person will calm down and a dialog can begin.
  • Show respect for other people’s ideas. Be open to the fact that what they have to say may add to or transform your point of view – and if it does, give them credit! As the Tao says, “The reason why rivers receive the homage of a hundred mountain streams is that they keep below them”. Ask yourself; do you want credit or results
  • Preserve the right mental attitude of courage, frankness and good cheer…and smile…
  • Make an effort to remember people’s names

“But wait!”, you may say. “How can you be interested, be genuinely interested in people? Isn’t this just positive psychology and again the dreary platitudes that sound good but you can never force yourself to really execute?” On the surface, perhaps. However, by following Carnegie’s directive to making a sincere effort to understand the emotional makeup of another person and stand in their shoes, you will necessarily find any straw man or adversary turns into another human being who has the same kind of fears and desires as you do. Once you find yourself open to listening, you will be transformed involuntarily – and that is the real genius of Dale Carnegie. By following his method you become not just a better communicator, salesman, friend and the like – you become a better person.

The book is not perfect… The title itself can be off-putting, implying the desire to get something over on someone, and to “win”. There are some cases in which the protagonists in the illustrative real-life narratives are not exactly operating from the prescribed standpoint of complete genuine appreciation, sometimes exaggerating the merits of their target with white lies. In other examples, he likely cherry picks stories involving known tyrants such as Andrew Carnegie (no relation) that illustrate his points. It is also dated. Many examples involve businessmen and celebrities who were the Elon Musks and the Brad Pitts of their day, but hearing how Ziegfeld presented each of his chorus girls with a dozen roses may cause the modern reader to wonder, “who was Ziegfeld and what is a chorus girl?”…And there are far more obscure examples.

Additionally, and this is a big one, it is not easy to follow the techniques in this book if you are stuck in your own importance, your own need for validation and instant gratification. This book is calling for is something far greater from the reader than following his techniques for making relationships more positive. This book is calling for ego transcendence and a view of the world in a way that is not unlike a spiritual transformation. In order to carry out any of the advice in this book, you must have decided upon an orientation toward the good, to genuinely want things to improve. This requires more than following 90-year-old advice; it requires a true desire for things to get better rather than an egoic need to being right. “I am not advocating a bag of tricks”, states Carnegie, “ I am talking about a new way of life.”

 

You Don’t Have to Take Sides – Quality and Political Opinion

You don’t have to take political sides…Imagine that.

One great way to evoke that subliminal self that allows you to detect Quality is to watch the news. Can you sit through half an hour of CNN or FOX and allow yourself to be totally objective? Try it. It’s really hard! Your preconceived value system is dying to kick right in. Your cognitive biases are almost impenetrable. So many people of us either TDS or MAGA!

But it’s a really good exercise…and if you can do this, you may find you start coming up with some truly original opinions based on the Quality that we now know is certainly there. What you see as valuable will emerge if you let it.

 

 

And people who do this as a basis of their writing, theoretical work, or in conversation are usually much more interesting to listen to or read then someone following a party line, no matter how brilliant they are. These original thinkers are very aware of their confirmation bias, and circumvent it by allowing the subliminal self, allowing Quality, what they see as of value, to inform the content of their material.

One thing you will find about these people is they are very difficult to pinpoint politically.

Here are some examples who you may have heard of and who you can easily find on Youtube:

Jordan Peterson: A lot of the media will smear him as far right, but he declares himself to be a classical liberal. He has a lot to offer to both the lost young men of our time AND to women who want to learn how to ask for a raise or otherwise more assertive on the job. He seems to dislike Trump, but understands why he was elected as he is looking at the world through his own theoretical framework outlined in Maps of Meaning and popularized in 12 Rules for Life.

Scott Adams: the creator of the Dilbert comic strip claims to be to the Left of Bernie on social issues, yet he is primarily followed by Trump supporters, who he often has to warn when he is about to give credit to the left, which he does frequently. His lack of insistence on following a preconceived political stance, coupled with a high level of creativity (which often goes hand in hand with this state of being) yield useful and original solutions to seemingly unsolvable political and practical problems

Jonathan Haidt: In a lot of ways, his moral foundations theory illustrates how a person’s political beliefs are often contingent on their moral system – and moral systems can be very different for conservatives than for liberals. This knowledge alone opens up an avenue to entertain the possibility that there isn’t one way to see political beliefs.

Bret Weinstein, the evolutionary biologist gives a great lecture on being open-minded enough to reach across the aisle and that the real political difference is libertarian versus authoritarian – and you can test yourself, by the way, to see where you are – it’s the political compass test. Well, that is a good parallel the Quality state of mind in terms of looking at political issues, because a libertarian mindset is open enough to entertain opposing ideas, whereas the authoritarian mindset isn’t – the preconceived value mindset.

And naturally, Pirsig. You think he’s neither hip nor square, and in the book, you will find he has great reverence for an old-style American way of living, while having great reverence for the Eastern way of being, and a revolutionary philosopher – many fans who were what you could classify as hippies, nerds, and outcasts.

So this is a short reflection on implementing Quality in a couple of life domains – connection, getting along with people, and Mind, improving your intellect.

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