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Quality Control: Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance By Robert Pirsig

1155 words - 5 pages

There exists one word that may just be the king of all misused words–the word that, more than any other, is used with complete disregard for and disinterest in its meaning. No, this is not a reference to literally, nor ‘legit,’ however deserving those words are of defense—this word is Quality. Some of the misuse lies in the basic distinction between quality and Quality with a capital ‘Q’, which can be cleared up quite succinctly. Little ‘q’ quality is attached to an object. It is the value of the object from a sum total of the value of the work that was put into it and of its composition. Quality is the interaction which creates meaning and leads to individual self-actualization. Factories have quality control, where products can have poor quality or high quality. A factory controlling Quality on the other hand is an absurd concept—Quality having no grounding in an object, instead being the connection between beings and experience which provides for wholeness in life. But what draws the line between whether a given experience was one of Quality or one that is hollow and meaningless? Nevil Shute’s On the Beach illustrates the difference between experiencing the immutable Quality defined by Robert Pirsig in his work, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and living a hollow existence, elaborating on the necessity of caring and self-awareness to live a life of dignity, self-actualization, and peace of mind—in other words, to attain Quality.
To experience Quality in one’s interactions, it is vital to have self-interest in these activities. Having self-investment in what one does, or acting out of duty toward oneself is an ancient concept. It is known as Dharma in Sanskrit, or equated to the Greek arête—excellence—by Robert Pirsig. For the archetypal Greek hero, this virtue was supreme. . Arête is analogous to the phrase that has become somewhat of a cliché in modern times, ‘live your life to it’s fullest.’ However, the trite nature of this phrase does not in the least discount the importance of arête. . It is this respect for the wholeness of life that leads individuals to act with the interest of bettering themselves, to act in the interest of self-actualization and fulfillment—two vague terms in themselves. To better understand these concepts, it is prudent to consider those who act for self-actualization—and just as importantly, those who act with utter lack of the intention of attaining self-actualization. The diverse characters of Nevil Shute’s On the Beach serve just this purpose.
Dwight Towers, commander of the U.S.S. Scorpion, fills the role of the archetypal noble hero. Despite clear interest towards him from the young Australian girl, Moira Davidson, and the complete eradication of all resemblances of the United States of America besides his own submarine, Towers remained loyal to his deceased wife and children as well as to the United States. Even at the very end of human existence, as radiation sickness took hold of the...

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