RE: MD People and Value in the MOQ

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sat Dec 04 2004 - 21:53:59 GMT

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    Sam, Chin and all MOQers:

    Chin asked Sam:
    Are you saying that Lila would be better off not turning her back on SQ
    until she fully understood it to the point it is no longer a force in her
    life that she has to contend with? Do you really think they can keep them
    down on the farm after they have seen Paris? :o)

    Sam replied:
    I think that - astonishing as it might sound, as I normally disagree with
    him so much - DMB got this right in his post of 22nd November in this
    thread. "She needs some static patterns to encase her freedom, he says. She
    needs to get a life, a job and cash a paycheck. She needs the rituals of
    daily life rather than this unanchored drifting." Those things which seem so
    mundane to us were in all probability life-giving to her.

    dmb says:
    We might agree that Lila needs some static patterns, Sam, but I suspect we
    have completely different ideas about WHICH static patterns she needs most.
    I'm going to take a wild guess and assume that you have some sort of
    conventional social patterns with which she ought to conform, maybe even
    something very specific like christian or Anglican values. But I think
    Pirsig would consider this a failure. And I think this is not a SMALL matter
    insofar as "Lila's battle is everybody's battle, you know?". This aspect of
    her case is covered pretty well in chapters 29 and 30. Along the way Pirsig
    talks about the balance between static and Dynamic in all sorts of ways; in
    terms of hippies, bohemians, contrarians, Zen masters, ritualistic
    religions, mysticism and all that sort of stuff. All of these things are
    brought to bear upon Lila's situation and so it sheds light on "everbody's
    battle". To summarize briefly, Pirsig says, "There are three ways she can

    "...spend the rest of her life in an insane asylum, like some caged animal.
    Her second alternative, he thought, would be to cave in to whatever it was
    she was fighting, and learn to 'adjust'. She's probably go into some kind of
    cultural dependency, with recurring trips to a psychiatrist or some kind of
    'social counselor' for 'therapy', accept the cultural 'reality' that her
    rebellion was no good and live with it. In this way she's continue to lead a
    'normal' life, continuing her problem, whatever it was, within conventional
    cultural limits. The trouble was, he didn't really like that solution much
    better than the first." a few pages later... "What he thought was, that in
    addtion to the usual solutions to insanity - stay locked up or learn to
    conform - fther was a third one, to reject ALL movies, private and cultural,
    and head for DQ itself, which is no movie at all."

    dmb continues:
    I had originally raised the point that Lila is in need of some static
    patterns to show that here ability to respond to DQ does not depend on the
    quality of her intellect, to demonstrate that people, as living beings with
    that ability, have value in the MOQ regardless of their static qualities, at
    least potentially. But now I'd like to go beyond that particular issue and
    expand our examination of Lila's battle. The quotes that lay out her three
    options preceed the idea we started with here, that she needs some static
    patterns to encase her freedom. Here's the quote (page 386) I had in mind...

    "Where to start with her? That was the question. The RTA interpretation of
    Quality would say that more ritual is what she needs - not the kind of
    ritual that fights DQ, but the kind that embodies it. But waht ritual? She
    wasn't about to follow rituals of any kind. Ritual was what she was
    fighting. But that could be an answer. Lila's problem wasn't that she was
    suffering from a lack of Dynamic freedom. Its hard to see how she could
    possibley have any more freedom. What she needed now were some stable
    patterns to ENCASE that freedom. She needed some way of being reintegrated
    into the rituals of everyday living."

    And then Pirsig explains that moving back to conventional static patterns is
    actually the disruption of a healing process, and then that such conformity
    represents a defeat for Lila...

    "What made it so sad was it was the first really immoral thing she had done
    to him in all that time he was with her. Sure, she called him a lot of bad
    names and stuff. But that had been more a defense of herself tham any overt
    wickedness. She had just been trying to tell him the truth. But this time
    she was lying. That's why she wanted to get out of here so fast. It was the
    first time he'd ever seen her look down like that. That's what was so sad to
    see. The thing that was most attractive about her was that straight-forward,
    eyes-ahead look of someone who's honest to them self, whatever others might
    think. Now that was gone. It meant she was turning back to the static
    patterns she came from. She's sold out. The system beat her. It made a crook
    out of her at last. It was as though she had just one more step to take and
    she was out of hell forever, and then instead of taking that one step she
    turned back. Now she's really done for. That bastard will commit her for

    Chin asked Sam:
    How does the Protestant culture fit into this idolizing of the Dynamic?

    Sam replied:
    Are you familiar with the phrase 'adrenaline junkie'? [big snip]...The
    problem is that without SQ you degenerate, and I think that has happened in
    certain circumstances - you could say that the drug problem is one of the
    fallouts from this approach (after all, it is unadulterated DQ as some would
    see it). I think Pirsig calls this problem quite well when he's writing
    about the hippies. But then again, maybe I'm just interpreting things
    through conservative spectacles...

    dmb says:
    It may be true that some have confused drug addiction and thrill seeking
    with DQ, have mistaken biological quality with something higher, but this
    distinction is drawn quite carefully in the MOQ. In the same pages, chapters
    29 and 30, the difference between degeneracy and Dynamic progress is
    discussed, the difference between ritualistic religion and mysticism is
    discussed, the difference between East and West is... you get the idea.
    Because Lila's battle is everybody's battle, and her fate is finally decided
    in these chapters, Pirsig is sort of bringing it all home. And this is the
    same section that speaks most directly to our long debate concerning
    mysticism, theism and all that. Because the discussion of Lila is so heavily
    connected to all these things I'm tempted to go off on any one of a thousand
    tangents, but let me return to Chin's question...

    I think the idea that Protestant culture idolizes the dynamic is true in a
    sense. (Trying to be generous here.) There is a faith in progress that comes
    with Modernity and the rise of both Capitalism and Protestantism is tied in
    with Modernity. This is also where individualism, democracy and rights come
    from. Science and rationality are very much a part of this same development
    and are the main forces behind that belief in human progress. But I think
    its very important to point out that this kind of social evolution or the
    belief that further social evolution will continue to improve life is most
    certainly NOT the same thing as mysticism. Not at all. In fact, I think its
    abundantly demonstrable that Western culture, both religious and secular,
    both traditionally and within the Modern and Postmodern currents, has a HUGE
    blindspot when it comes to mysticism. So I think that Protestant culture
    might hold a belief in progress, a faith in social evolution, and even a
    fetish for novelty, but in the West mysticism is viewed as hardly different
    from insanity or superstitious nonsense at best.

    Sorry, Sam, but it seems pretty clear to me that your various misconceptions
    express a very common and quite understandable prejudice about mysticism, a
    prejudice you share with nearly everyone in our culture. You've denied that
    such a thing even exists. You've confused it with drug addiction and bungee
    jumping, haven't seen it as anything but a content-free experience "as such"
    and all sorts of things that just don't reflect the descriptions provided by
    Pirsig and other philosphical mystics. This must be symptomatic of the same
    kind of blind spot that you share with the culture. And it must be
    especially challanging for an Anglican priest, or any kind of priest, to
    accept these ideas. Pirsig is asserting an idea that used to get people
    killed and there is a long history of resistance to it, not least of all
    from the churches. So, as you might imagine, I think your idea about
    Lutheranism and Protestantism confuses several things. But even more than
    that, I don't think the whiggish faith in reason or the progress brought by
    Modernity speaks to this prejudice against mysticism at all and is actually
    a different topic. That is all about the rise of Modernity, the scientific
    revolution and the enlightenment. And since the MOQ is an evolutionary
    metaphysics, I think its safe to say that Pirsig does not reject this aspect
    of Modernity, nor should we. But the belief in progress and evolution is
    simply not the same as a belief in mysticism. There are pleanty of
    Westerners who embrace the former while rejecting the latter. In fact,
    almost all educated Westerners would fit that bill. Such is the bias.

    It feels like I'm only raising questions and opened things up rather than
    drawing any conclusions or wrapping things up. Maybe a new thread devoted to
    those two chapters is in order?

    If I'm reading it right, one of Lila's biggest problems is cruel,
    judgemental attitudes she sees reflected in the Rigels of the world. That
    constant negative feedback, among other things, is destroying her. That's
    why Pirsig says she's returning back to the static patterns that she was
    running from in the first place and that's why she's sold out. She won't
    really evolve as a human being so much as conform to certain norms thereby
    winning the approval of those who once condemned her. She'll get static to
    make everybody else happy but will give up her own authentic life as a
    result. Her migration toward DQ is halted by such obedience, not enhanced by
    it. And her battle is our battle.


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