RE: MD Code of Art

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Mon Dec 13 2004 - 00:27:52 GMT

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    Steve, Mark, Sam and all MOQers:

    Steve Peterson wrote:
    I don't interpret Code of Art to be a level as in a type of pattern.
    Pirsig uses the term "moral codes" frequently in Lila. I think he
    uses it to refer to rules for establishing moral supremacy between
    levels rather than saying that the code itself is a specific level.

    Mark Steven Heyman replied:
    Thanks for the clarification. I was going to ask Platt where the
    Code of Art was discussed, but you've cleared that up. Sounds like
    it's just a different way of referring to the perpetual tension
    between DQ and SQ.

    dmb says:
    Right. This final code is like the rest of them in that they're all aimed at
    protecting the process of evolution except that the code of art doesn't
    define the relationship between one static level and the next, but rather
    the relationship between Dynamic change and all static patterns. It is
    higher than intellectual static patterns, but not because there is some new
    level emerging wherein we all become painters or any such ridulous thing.
    Its about freshness being better that staleness at any level. The changes
    brought about by the Brujo and other contrarians need not have anything to
    do with intellect or the arts. It has to do with evolution. In that
    particular case, it was about the evolution of social patterns and pretty
    picture pictures had nothing to do with it. (Sorry. but Platt's ideas on
    this issue are even worse than his politics.)

    Mark said:
    Of course Pirsig himself said there's no reason to limit the number
    of levels to four; and I kind of like the idea of an Art level, maybe
    between the Social and Intellectual, just ti irk my friend Platt.
    OTOH, as you reminded us, Quality is Realty and everything we do is
    art: philosophy, motorcycle maintenance, kicking stones and raking
    leaves; so a separate Art level becomes redundant.

    dmb says:
    Well, we would hope that all our doings are artful, but I definately get the
    impression that this idea has been widely underestimated. The ideas about
    having both gumption and peace of mind, of working in a clean and well
    lighted places, is certainly connected to this idea. Evolutionary impulses
    might come out of such stillness. But I think the code of art, if we really
    want call it that, is more connected to dramatic conflicts and powerful
    feelings. Remember the descriptions of evolutionary contrarians as people
    who feel like they'll just die if they don't get out of the static prison,
    that they are working out their own problems and just happen to be working
    out the culture's problems too? Or how, despite their apparent outsider
    status, these change-making contrarians are actually an integral part of the
    culture? This is Shaw's unreasonable man, no? These are the ones who are
    following the code of art. Some such figure are literally artists and in
    fact lots of them are, but let's not let that be a source of confusion.
    Evolution is the point and the particular vehicle is of secondary importance
    at best. Its open to whatever makes things better and that openness is sort
    of the point.

    Campbell speaks to this issue, by way of Nietzche, in surprizingly Pirsigian
    terms. It might be helpful to share some gems from his MYTHS TO LIVE BY...

    "Let me recall at this point Nietzsche's statements regarding classic and
    romantic art. He identified two types or orders of each. There is the
    romanticism of true power that shatters contemporary forms to go beyond
    these to new forms; and there is, on the other hand, the romanticism that is
    unable to achieve form at all, and so smashes and disparages out of
    resentment. And with respect to classicism likewise, there is the classicism
    that finds an achievement of the recognized forms easy and can play with
    them at will, expressing through them its own creative aims in a rich and
    vital way; and there is the classicism that clings to form desperately out
    of weakness, dry and hard, authoritarian and cold. The POINT I WOULD MAKE -
    and which I believe was also Nietzsche's - is that form is the medium, the
    vehicle, through which life becomes manifest in its grand style, articulate
    and grandiose, and that the mere shattering of form is for human as well as
    for animal life a disaster, ritual and decorum being the structuring forms
    of all civilization."

    dmb explains:
    Yes, Sam, you're gonna be surprized and delighted, but don't get too excited
    yet. Campbell is talking about ritual in the broad sense, the way Pirsig
    talks about cashing paychecks. In any case, I hope you see all the MOQisms
    in Campbell's paragraph. Pirsig went we the classic/romantic split in ZAMM
    and then went to the static/Dynamic split in LILA. Its a little funny to get
    them both at the same time, but it still works. I think we can also see
    Pirsig's distinction between degenerates and revolutionaries in this
    paragraph too. That's the main point, no? And Cambell reads our history the
    same way Pirsig does in this respect. For extra fun, you can count the
    Pirsigisms along the way...

    "One cannot help remarking, however, that since about the year 1914 there
    has been evident in our progressive world an increasing disregard and even
    disdain for those rital forms that once brought forth, and up to now have
    sustained, this infinitely rich and fruitfully developing civilizaton. There
    is a ridiculous nature-boy sentimentalism that with increasing force is
    taking over. Its beginnings date back to the 18th century of Rousseau, with
    its artificial back-to-nature movements and conceptions of the Noble Savage.
    Americans abroad, from the time of Mark Twain onward, have been notorious
    exemplars of the ideal, representing as conspicuoulsly as possible the
    innocent belief that Europeans and Asians, living in older, stuffier
    enviroments, should be refreshed and awakened to their own natural
    innocences by the unadulterated boorishness of a product of God's Country,
    our sweet American soil, and our Bill of Rights. In Germany, between the
    wars, the Wandervogel, with their knapsacks and guitars, and the later
    Hitler Youth, were representatives of the reactionary trend in modern life.
    And now, right here in God's Country itself (published in 1972) idyllic
    scenes of barefoot white and black 'Indians' camping on our sidewalks with
    their tomtoms, bedrolls, and papooses are promising to turn entire sections
    of our cities into fields for anthropological research. For, as in all
    societies, so among these, there are distinguishing costumes, rites of
    initiation, required beliefs and the rest. They are here, however,
    explicitly reactionary and reductive, as though in the line of biological
    evolution one were to regress from the state of the chimpanzee to that of
    the starfish or even amoeba. The complexity of social patterning is rejected
    and reduced, and with that, life freedom and force have not been gained but

    dmb says:
    I think Pirsig's comments on the topic express the very same idea. They even
    mention the same particulars even down to the starting date. And the
    remarkable thing is that they are doing this independently and are even
    working in different fields of inquiry. This is what Pirsig was saying when
    he refuted the idea that "man is born free, yet is everywhere in chains" as
    disasterous fiction. He and Campbell are saying that society's forms allow
    us a greater freedom than does nature. They're both making the case for the
    kind of conservatism even a liberal like me can respect. But that's still
    not the end of the story. You don't think I forgot about the code of art do
    you? No way. I'm getting to that...

    "The first requirement of any society is that its adult membership should
    realize and represent the fact that it is they who constitute its life and
    being. And the first function of the rites of puberty, accordingly, must be
    to establish in the individual a system of sentiments that will be
    approproate to the society in which he is to live, and on which that society
    itself must depend for its exitence. In the modern Western world, moreover,
    there is an additional complication; for we ask of the adult something still
    more than that he should accept without personal criticism and judgement the
    habits and inherited customs of his local social group. We ask and we are
    expecting, rather, that he should develop what Sigmund Freud has called his
    'reality function'; that faculty of the independently observant, freely
    thinking individual who can evaluate without preconceptions the possibilites
    of his enviroment and of himself within it, criticizing and creating, not
    simply reproducing inherited patterns of thought and action, but becoming
    himself an innovating center, an active, creative center of the life
    process. Our ideal for a society, in other words, is not that it should be a
    perfectly static organization, founded in he age of the ancestors and to
    remain unchanging through all time. It is rather a process moving toward a
    fulfillment of as yet unrealized possiblities; and in this living process
    each is to be an initiating yet cooperating center. We have, consequestly,
    the comparatively complex problem in educating our young, of training them
    not simply to assume uncritically the patterns of the past, but to recognize
    and cultivate their own creative possibilites; not to remain on some proven
    level of earlier biology and sociology, but to represent a movement of the
    species forward."

    dmb says:
    That, my friends, explains the code of art. When you are cooperating with
    the process of evolution as a creative force, that's walking the way. That's
    getting right with god. And of course its much easier said than done. One
    can see that some kind of mastery has to preceed creativity. You gotta know
    those forms to get beyond them. There is no going around them, even if the
    point is to shatter them. This is what I think its really all about. The
    code of art is the big one, the one that trumps all others. This is why I
    think the notion has been so misunderestimated. While I have to admit that
    I've never seen one of Platt's paintings, and are probably kinda nice, I
    suspect they have nothing to do with any of this.

    "......This last, the Dynamic-static code, says what's good in life
    isn't defined by society or intellect or biology.  What's good is
    freedom from domination by any static pattern, but that freedom
    doesn't have to be obtained by the destruction of the patterns

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