Fri, 21 Aug 1998 13:15:01 +0100
hello Ant and squad
i really enjoyed the excerpts from your correspondence with Pirsig. thank
you for sharing them with us all.
"Fundamentally Pirsig's term (Quality) is a mystic one, and
refers to the undifferentiated, indeterminate, reality from
which the universe has evolved (or grown) from."
On March 29th 1997 Pirsig wrote to Anthony with the
following comment about the above statement:
"Although this is true at a Buddha's level of understanding
it would be confusing and illogical in the world of
everyday affairs to say that the world is evolving both
from and toward the same thing. I have had some reader
mail that has pointed out that at one place I seem to imply
that Quality and chaos are the same and at another that
they are different, so I haven't been clear on this myself
and have left an opening to attack. To close it up, let us
say that the universe is evolving from a condition of low
quality (quantum forces only, no atoms, pre-big bang)
toward a higher one (birds trees societies and thoughts)
and that in a static sense (world of everyday affairs)
these two are not the same."
Ant, i have been puzzling (for several days now) over this exchange between
you and Pirsig and what exactly Pirsig is getting at when he says these two
(lower quality and higher quality) are not the same in a static sense (world
of everyday affairs). at first i thought it might mean that they are the
same in a dynamic sense (world of the Buddha?) but then i felt this is a
wrong interpetation. first of all, Pirsig would have to be a Buddha to know
that, and while i admire him a great deal, i dont believe he thinks of
himself as a Buddha.
perhaps what he is saying is that the viewpoint of low quality vs. high is
relative to the observer and his/her capacity to form bridges of experience
to each. perhaps its not a matter of being a Buddha so much as it is of
viewing the world from the point of view of the Buddha. i am sure Pirsig
uses this analogy because of his familiarity with Buddhism, but other points
of view would work as well. but what does he mean by that? since he himself
says Quality is undefinable, is it just words? that doesnt seem right
in going to Pirsig's paper on Subjects, Objects, Data and Values, he calls
Dynamic Quality 'The Conceptually Unknown' which i think ties in very well
here. normally in the 'world of everyday affairs' we think in terms of what
we know to be and ignore what we dont know to be. we have such an enormous
amount of information coming to us via the senses that we must learn to do
this or be overwhelmed by the imput. this is the beginning of the separation
of the self from the rest of the universe, subject/object thinking. we
simply ignore the conceptually unknown part of the universe and say it
by recognizing 'The Conceptually Unknown' as a part of our reality, we are
accounting for this undefinable factor in the universe known as Quality.
when we do that however, we sometimes do not realize the significance of
what this means unless our viewpoint of reality also transcends the notion
of a separate self/universe to that of a Buddha point of view. since i have
not studied Buddhism, i am not certain what a Buddha is, but i gather it is
the highest ideal a normal person can attain to in that philosophy. however,
i do know that the Buddha felt we all had Buddha-nature, and so we are all a
part of that ideal whether we aware of it or not.
if the everyday static world arises from what Northrop calls the
'undifferentiated aesthetic continuum' and Pirsig calls Dynamic Quality,
then our everyday affairs would seem to be governed by underlying eternal
rules that are conceptually unknown to us, and more, are conceptually
unknowable as well. so we have two choices, we can form substitute
conceptions for reality and call these substitutes reality, Bohr's
Complementarity, and form our everyday static world of affairs, or we can
incorporate the conceptually unknown into our point of view and in essence,
transcend the everyday reality around us into one dynamically charged
eternal moment, but only if we change our static viewpoint to a dynamic
point of view in doing so and recognize the Buddha nature within us, or our
one-ness with the universe, or whatever one cares to call it.
there is just no way of seeing that the universe is both moving towards what
it is and at the same time, is already that which it is moving towards, for
even by becoming a Buddha, this is in itself a static pattern, a substitute
reality instead of dynamic reality, and so still is within the conceptually
known and not the unknown. its just that that point of view is more
expansive than the one of everyday affairs and so presumably allows
transcendence to the many truths vs the only truth, or absolution. the
Buddha still remains to be slain, but that is perhaps the key to Dynamic
Quality, viewing it for transcendental purposes rather than static purposes.
that would result in seeing Dynamic Quality with higher moral precedence
than if it were viewed from the static everyday world of reality, where
Dynamic Quality doesnt really exist and so has low quality value in regards
to the static's known quality of value.
any thoughts on mine are appreciated. best wishes to all.
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