Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I rediscovered this book when I recovered a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance from the trash. This was one of the books of my youth, a time when I took things apart like bicycles, 36 horsepower VW engines, front steps not only to know how they worked but to fix them. I was a tinkerer, I still am a tinkerer and this book by Robert Pirsig was a crucial book for me to remind me I wasn't crazy, like some folks told me. I followed the edict "If it ain't broke, take it apart to see how it works," drove my father crazy and some others, too. I loved this book because it spoke to me. At first it was the romantic Huck Finn notion of lightin' out for the territory and then became the classic view of essence. Now as I read it some 35 years later, I'm in awe of this tome.

Alan Watts introduced me to Zen, my experience in Veitnam was more about Zen than any domino theory. When I came home I studied Phaedrus and owned a motorcycle. Pirsig's book was a welcome college graduation gift. It was read on a simpler romantic level then. Now it is more of a classical read. I'm still tinkering but now with computers. My first computer was a keyboard I hooked up to a B&W tv and had to write BASIC to see "Hi Ted" on the screen. Exciting, but nothing compared to 1984 when I had a weekly "ahha" moment as I was learning to teach with computers in my 16 Tandy 1000 computer room with those 5 1/4 inch startup disks. Today I have 16 Imacs and 16 Dells in a room with smartboards and a console that can not only control the computers in my room but those in other rooms. My tinkering is in VETY (I'm still enamoured with the Greeks and Romans as well as exploring the parts) and having my students write in HTML. I have given up my Facebook and Twitter accounts as they aren't ZEN. As I reread this tome, I'm reminded about how unZen we are with our ignorance of how it works let alone any care about how it works as witnessed in the horrendous year Columbia University has had from plagairism in a valedictorian speech (C'mon man), to drug dealing to pay for college, to sex between a prof and his daughter. How lazy and stupid have we become? We can't write our own valedictorian speeches anymore? We can't find legal ways to make money? We can't find sex outside our homes? I think Columbia needs a little bit of Zen. And on the west coast and in Ohio an adequate lesson plan is a journal entry and NOT an essay. “Write a journal entry in which you imagine how life or work will change after the smart grid is ready to go.” Yikes, a journal entry?? What have we become a nation of tweets? Governor Rendell may have said it well too. I'm worried when we limit ourselves to 128 characters and to journal entries as lesson plans instead of creative projects and essay writing. Even the famed NYState English Language Arts Regents exam has been dumbed down again in my teaching career to one essay and too much Multiple Choice. Pirsig is correct and needs to be reread over and over again, we are not only afraid of technology we are not sure how to use it correctly. Technology has taken control and made us wusses, stupid wusses who are limited to so many characters and so little to say that we use copy and paste to the point we think it is ours.

Don't be confused by the title, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. This book should be on everyone's reading list. Make 2011 the year you take back your life.

No comments: