Chautauqua: Thinking Wholistically

Hmph.  I thought I had posted this a while ago.  Guess not!

In Zen & The Art, Pirsig talks about a distinction between the classical view of reality, which is analytic–that is to say, which decomposes everything into its component parts, like an exploded diagram–and the romantic view, which sees things as they are on the surface.

Last night as I lay in bed, I was thinking about this division (which, I think, we have to admit is classical in nature, and I decided well, that it’s bullshit.  It’s not necessary.  To say that it’s necessary is to say that if you look at the left side of an elephant you can’t also look at its right side.

And it’s true that you can’t do those two things simultaneously.  But you don’t need to.

My example, marginally related to motorcycles, is the bicycle.  I love bicycles, and few things give me greater aesthetic pleasure, but the pleasure is not only in what the thing is or how it works, but both.  I enjoy the surface appearance of my ride because I know that the bicycle is the sum of its parts–which I assembled and so of which I have a “classical” understanding–and yet is simultaneously sui generis, a unique and special object that cannot be understood by disassembly.

I thought back over many years and realized that my obsession with bags has similar properties, as does my love of musical instruments (OK, guitars).  I mean, I have gutted and completely rebuilt/modified electric guitars.  This doesn’t mean I cannot appreciate the guitar for what it is, or for what it does.  Indeed, it heightens my wholistic appreciation of the instrument to be able to modify it, control it, fashion it.

So whence comes this distinction between the analytic and the gestalt?  I am beginning to suspect that it’s yet another false dichotomy, much like the mind/body distinction, that we make because we don’t want to face reality.

Now, because I’m only about 30% of the way through the book, am I undermining Pirsig’s premise? His argument? Or am I making it for him?

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