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Quality Control: Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

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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 ...


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...nderstand that his decision to live strongly for his family, his country, and ultimately himself was the right way to live out his numbered days, despite being unable to put into words exactly why he choose to stay true to seemingly archaic ideals in the face of the obliteration of almost all who original stood for them.
Neither caring nor self-awareness alone creates experience of Quality. Without self-awareness, Quality as a result of caring is unperceivable, as mountains are undefined without trenches. In tandem though, the self-awareness obtained through peace of mind as well as the wholeness and self-actualization resulting from dignity and caring, or duty toward oneself, creates an entire landscape for an individual at the cutting edge of their experience. There, never within control of one person, yet always within reach of the individual, lies Quality.



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