Quality – I love the quality of this photo. If I was reading the early part of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I would be challenged to define “quality.”
And how would I do that? Before Pirsig defined it, he found himself on the horns of a dilemma. Quality could be objective: an awful of people would say that Michelangelo’s David is quality. Or it can be subjective. I may find quality in a piece of music that you don’t. And yet, many, many people agree on which objects and events contain that elusive quality.
I would say that quality is what draws me to connect with an object, a person, an event. I want to be closer to it. I want to experience it as fully as possible. I want to absorb it. Quality, in one way or another, is love.
But back to quality: the part of the book that always (always – no matter how often I read it) makes my hair stand on end is the part where our protagonist determines that quality is not subjective nor objective – it passes right through the horns of the dilemma – it is a third entity. It is not a thing. It is an event.
“It is the event at which the subject becomes aware of the object….. The sun of quality does not revolve around the subjects and objects of our existence. It does not just passively illuminate them. It is not subordinate to them in any way. It has created them. They are subordinate to it!”
For Pirsig then, quality is the centre of the universe. It holds it all together. It is the great cause.
I want to back up and look again at the point he arrived at previous to this statement, where he said, “Quality is what you like.”
I would take that a step farther and say it’s more than like – it’s love. And I wonder if quality itself is love. Quality draws us in – love draws us in. Love creates quality (as in a painting or a piece of music).
The problem with the word “love” is its connotation – it’s either romantic or sexual or just plain childish. That is not the context I take it in. In those contexts it tends to be selfish and ego-centred. The love I talk about is that place and time where you become one with the beloved – whether that’s a mountain, a tree, a rock or a person. It’s that place where you expand and become one, where your heart leaps out of your body and you enter a state of bliss.
I believe that love is the heart that beats at the centre of the universe. It’s an infinitely creative force – and all it’s actions are filled with quality. To bring that consciousness to everyday life – that is the Holy Grail.
I think Pirsig’s “quality” and my “love” are, if not the same thing, then closely connected.
He defines quality as an event.
I define love as an event. But it is not an event that hinges on subject and object. It is an event that eliminates object. It is a flow of constant creation. It is the primary force.
It’s a jolly good thing I am hiking the next three days. I need some of these thoughts to simply settle. And besides, I LOVE hiking. (smile)