Zen and the Art Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1479 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] ' But within the mind of a true mediator, the simple action of sitting becomes fused with meaning. Because Westerners often perceive a divide between spiritual life and secular life, however, even Westerners who are aficionados of what they often call the 'Eastern Religions' of the Tao and Buddhism, do not bring the same sort of dedication to their daily lives as they do to meditation.

Pirsig encourages his readership to do just that. Rather than simply presenting 'the East,' he attempts to locate Western and Eastern philosophy, as well as his own spiritual journey, in a larger context. A lover of motorcycles, he is distressed at first that the quickness and the rationality of mechanistic life may have alienated him from what is truly important within. What is important is quality of life, not focusing on goodness. Goodness comes, not by aiming at goodness as a value, but by acting with a correctly focused mind at all times. One is most good, when one is most mindful and at one with one's surroundings, whatever those surroundings may be. Mindful and unified action, rather than trying to be good generates goodness and what the author calls "quality." Another analogy of this truth is that of the Zen archer who always hits the center of the target when he or she is not directly aiming for the center.

Western philosophy as Pirsig sees it, is founded upon a dualism of subject and object. I, the subject, view the world, and judge it, in the Western mindset. Objects are things outside of me and alien to me. The subject judges these things as either good or bad, as fundamentally separate from the subject of myself at all times. Unfortunately, this sense of alienation can be so profound that Westerners can even take such an attitude towards their own bodies and own families, as well as objects like motorcycles. Pirsig sees Western thought as the evolution of a series of false distinctions from the Classical, which stresses the function of objects being mastered by a subject, to the Romantic interest in beauty or externality. Pirsig attempts a "unified field" theory of reasoning, fusing the practicality of maintaining a motorcycle with the Romantic emotional sensitivity, as expressed by the Sutherlands who love riding the vehicles of motorcycles but hate the culture that enabled such technology to be generated. (142)

The Sutherlands are perhaps most emblematic of the false distinctions and hypocrisies of Western culture. Although their technophobia may seem worthy at the onset, in reality this fear of all things mechanical is just another expression of one's alienation to one's environment. A true student of Zen must be just at one with a motorcycle as he or she is with observing a mountain or sunset. A true student of Zen must be just as one with his or her motorcycle when fixing it, as he or she is mindful and at one with the body in meditation. Zen's focus is the breakdown of distinction between the secular and sacred world, between subject and object, rather than over-valuing one at the expense of the other. Meditation and fixing a motorcycle are simply tools on the way to the path of the enlightenment; neither action should be prioritized at the expense of the other.

Rather than striving for truth, Pirsig suggests that it is best to see one's self as at one with everything. Subject and object is fused in Zen. When I am riding my motorcycle, I am not a subject riding the object of a motorcycle, attempting to master the motorcycle. Rather, the motorcycle and I am one, one entity. When I am not riding my motorcycle, but am simply walking with my son, my son, my surroundings, and I have changed into a different kind of unity. Such an attitude enables Phaedrus to connect with his very emotionally troubled son Chris. Such an attitude, in essence, enables the narrator to become one with his former, pre-electroshock self of "Phaedrus" whom he has before been alienated from, even though this persona is part of his history and past. Ultimately, Zen and "Unified Field Theory's" correct fusion of emotion and logical intelligence, of overcoming false dichotomies and distinctions enables the narrator to become a fully unified self, father, spiritual being, and motorcycle enthusiast. [END OF PREVIEW]

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Zen and the Art.  (2002, May 9).  Retrieved February 22, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/zen-art/9397003

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"Zen and the Art."  Essaytown.com.  May 9, 2002.  Accessed February 22, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/zen-art/9397003.