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Novel Reality

by David L Thomas

I have been an addict for nearly fifty years. Hooked on Nancy Drew by ten, then graduating to the swashbuckling yarns of Frank Yerby, on to the gut wrenching twists of Ludnum, until now the tattered cartons of paperbacks lining my basement walls are stark testament to my ravaged mind and pocketbook. My addiction to pulp fiction has always been rooted in the potential for escape. A few years ago my escape tunnel was inadvertently compromised by a friend returning a box of loaned books. As he handed me the box he raved about an orange, dog-eared book laying on top. I nodded, smiled, and grunted in the appropriate places but didn't truly have a clue as to what the book was about, or when I had read it. That night I started rereading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into values by Robert M Pirsig.

It slowly came back. At the time I bought the book I was riding a motorcycle to work daily, that's what caught my eye. It was in it's fourth paperback printing and had rave reviews. It was the first book I'd read that featured contemporary Montana (where I'd been raised) and the main character once taught in Bozeman (where I'd graduated from college). While the basic drift quickly returned, just as quickly it became clear I had skimmed whole sections of the book. Now I remember, about half way through the first time I wasn't quite sure what I was reading, Is this a novel? I'm sure I thought it was when I bought it. In fact the New Yorker review said "It lodges in the mind as few recent novels have..." It read and felt like a novel but on closer inspection the author's note said:

"What follows is based on actual occurrences. Although much has been changed for rhetorical purposes, it must be regarded in its essence as fact. However, it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It's not factual on motorcycles, either."
(Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig 1928-, William Morrow and Company-1974)

The binder was stamped "Non Fiction"and the people mentioned in the book were still in Bozeman when I was there, Truth? Fiction? What about the philosophy? Figment of another ravaged mind or vision of a new world order? It really didn't matter because the weighty straw of philosophy was already cruising at warp speed across the desert of my mind firmly locked on to my unsuspecting hump. Although it had to have been almost 15 years since I bought Pirsig's first book, within days of rereading it, there waiting in ambush in a bookstore window was Mr. Pirsig's just released second "novel?", Lila: An Inquiry into Morals. Throw into the mix a recently read philosophical commentary, Death of the Soul From Descartes to the Computer, by William Barrett, (one of America's preeminent philosophers according to the jacket notes), and my philosophical eutectic point was reached.

Both authors discussed the origins and evolution of philosophy and argued that the evolution of Western philosophy had narrowed -- "What is real?" -- to the point that currently "philosophic reality" is unrelated to, beyond the comprehension of, and of little use to the majority of Americans. Mr. Barrett rested his overview with the plea that "consciousness" was one of those things that really shouldn't have been excluded from reality. Mr. Pirsig on the other hand suggested sliding a new foundation under all of philosophy, nothing short of new basis for reality, and I'm yelling, "Right On!" I had discovered the true meaning of life and it was a couple of "relatively long fictional prose narratives with a more of less complex plot or pattern of events, about actions, feelings, motives, etc. of a group of characters" in short: Novel Reality ! All those "wasted" hours of reading "dime store novels" had been vindicated.

But why did Mr. Pirsig spent years crafting a compelling metaphysical theory then disguised it as novels published over 15 years apart? Fiction has a long history of seriously discussing important issues. One only has to scratch fiction's surface to recall Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Orwell's 1984 or the plays and satire of Voltaire. The publishing of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's 1962 novel A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is said to have played a significant role in starting the process that led to the recent break up of the Soviet Union. If the following quotes are any indication, current novelists also feel their fictions contain strong truths.

"Here's what I think the bottom line is: if you're looking for truth, try fiction." ... I've always believed that the lies we use to make our fictions reveal the truth with far more honesty than any history ..."
( Memory & Dream, Charles de Lint, Tor Books 1994.)

Or, when asked why she wrote novels?, another author replied,

"Because I can speak the truth and say things the way I want to. I could not do that in any other form without the fear of reprimand by society. If the heat gets too heavy over something I said in my novels. I can always say, Chill Out Man!, after all it's only fiction". ( Fresh Air-National Public Radio interview 1993 )

Then we have the novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand who's novels Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead were used as tools to introduce, support, and popularize her philosophical construct, Objectivism.

Why masquerade philosophy as fiction? Historically Western philosophy has spread primarily though academia attracting advocates and critics in that circle until such time as it achieved sufficient critical mass to spill over into popular culture. The current problem with philosophy, as Barrett and others have indicated, is that what is spilling over into popular culture is reflective of the highly fragmented and ever narrowing academic philosophic milieu. So I believe Pirsig, as Rand before him, decided that an end run around academia was not only desirable but mandatory. What better way to do this than to disguise your philosophy as a mass media popular novel? Also Pirsig's apparent distaste for academia coupled with his need to remain sane probably led him to believe that even if he was intellectually up for the fight to defend his work that an open, public, fight could potentially wake Phædrus.

I can see Pirsig standing in the twilight on the banks of the Madison as the salmon flies tease the trout. Though Pirsig can't see them he senses his stalkers as he makes the evening's final cast, I hear him chuckling under his breath, for he knows as the professors close on him, with their a priories and if -- not -- thens, he will whirl and scream at the top of his lungs, "Chill out man, its only fiction!" Phædrus, watching from the shadows, slowing turns and walks away in disgust. Welcome to novel reality.

But more important than why, is do Pirsig's "fictions reveal the truth with far more honesty than the histories" of Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, and the continuum of Western philosophers up to the present? Could, LILA be the Ivan Denisovich of Western philosophy. The majority of society will probably respond as my ten year old daughter would, "Who gives a care?" In 1974, novelist/philosopher, Ayn Rand, rhetorically answered the question this way:

"Philosophy: Who needs it?..."Most men spend their days struggling to evade three questions, the answers to which underlie man's every thought, feeling and action whether he is consciously aware of it of not: Where am I? How do I know it? What should I do?..... There is only one science that can answer them: philosophy. Philosophy studies the fundamental nature of existence, of man, and of man's relationship to existence... As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational ..process or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions..."
(Ayn Rand, Philosophy: Who needs it. An address given to the graduating class of West Point on March 6, 1974 published after her death in a book by the same name)

So what is the case for replacing our basis of reality (metaphysics) with the ramblings of a character in a couple of mildly popular 20th century "novels"? To paraphrase Mr. Pirsig: In our society if you cannot maintain touch with reality you're insane and may end up being locked up. This comes at a time when only a Ph.D. qualifies one to discuss reality. Is then everyone else insane? Or do we need to seek a more relevant and approachable basis of reality?

Is, according to Pirsig, the foundation Western reality is built on quicksand? Even more ironic; is the true basis of human reality is the ultimate 90's buzzword "Quality"? Like in. Quality Discount Carpets, quality time, quality of life, the quality goes in - before the name goes on, total quality management, ad nauseam. This "Quality" premise is the ruminations of his character(other self) Phædrus as he wanders, via boat and motorcycle, through the pages of two novels. Over the course of both, Phædrus holds a series of mental debates with philosophers living and dead finally besting them all with the Metaphysics of Quality. The basic premise behind Phædrus's metaphysics is that Quality, which is equal to Value, is the foundation of all reality. The logic behind this he states thus:

"There's a principle in physics that if a thing can't be distinguished from anything else it doesn't exist. To this the metaphysics of quality adds a second principle: if a thing has no value it isn't distinguished from anything else. Then putting the two together, A thing that has no value does not exist."
(Lila, An Inquiry into Morals, Robert Pirsig 1928-, Bantam Book 1991)

Furthermore, if Quality or value is the basis of reality, then the first subdivisions of Quality are "Static" and "Dynamic".

"Static Quality is the class of stable or accepted values, patterns, laws, customs, and theories that societies have formalized and that change little over time. "Dynamic Quality", on the other hand, are those values which are outside of any society, that cannot be contained by any system of precepts, but have to be continually rediscovered as a culture evolves.

In the past Phædrus' own radical bias caused him to think of Dynamic Quality alone and neglect static patterns of quality. Until now he had always felt that these static patterns were dead. They have no love. They offer no promise of anything. To succumb to them is to succumb to death, since that which does not change cannot live. Life can't exist on Dynamic Quality alone. It has no staying power. To cling to Dynamic Quality alone apart from any static patterns is to cling to chaos. He saw that much can be learned about Dynamic Quality by studying what is not rather than trying to define what it is.

Static quality patterns are dead when the are exclusive, when the demand blind obedience and suppress Dynamic change. But static patterns, nevertheless, provide a necessary stabilizing force to protect Dynamic progress from degeneration. Although Dynamic Quality, the Quality of freedom, creates this world in which we live, these patterns of static quality, the quality of order, preserve our world. Neither Static nor Dynamic Quality can survive without the other."
(Lila: An Inquiry into Morals, Robert Pirsig 1928-, Bantam Book 1991)

This Static/Dynamic interplay is not isolated to Phædrus's ruminations but has appeared time and again in other fictional and non fiction works.

"For convenience, history is often viewed as a conflict between the instinct for order and the impulse toward chaos. Both are necessary: both are manifestations of the need to survive. Without order, nothing exists: without chaos, nothing grows. And yet the struggle between them sheds more blood that any other war."
(The Gap into Vision Forbidden Knowledge, Stephen R. Donaldson 1947 -- Bantam Doubleday Dell 1991.)

"See how the force of the idea is made static by "explaining it". Explanation isolates it and makes it a target instead of an influence. If I can contribute anything, it is the recognition of the working of this subtle, simple law: that which is unexpressed is dynamic, active."
(The Bell Notes -A Journey from Physics to Metaphysics - Arthur M Young 1979 as quoted in the Millennium Whole Earth Catalog)

The lure of quality, as a metaphysical base, is that not only could it solve the growing body of Subject/Object paradoxes but it might afford a common basis of reality for everyone on the planet. Now that we have gone to the moon and looked back: Should not the underlying basis of reality be broad enough to include every human on the planet? Regardless of the philosophical, religious, or political hubris that preceded their being here?. But if we look at the current trends in Western philosophy we find this is far from the case. William Barrett, after tracing Western philosophy from Decartes to "The Computer" maintains that since the foundations of Western philosophy were laid, over 2000 years ago, great thinkers have continuously modified and built upon them. Since the early seventeenth century philosophers have continually narrowed the scope of reality, until now it seems that only those things that science and technology can objectively observed are candidates for entry into the ivory tower of reality. Gone are human consciousness, cultural values, morality, God, soul, and all of their kind. In defense of the reality of consciousness he writes:

Why this strange fear of human consciousness? Why this uneasiness at admitting it as a clear and evident fact within our human world?.... Is the consciousness of another person something that we should reasonably expect to SEE?.......We are plentifully aware of the minds of other people, but in another and more engulfing way: We share them. They are a part of the vital flow of life that surrounds and sustains us in the coming and going of family, friends, and those close to us.... Suppose, out of a moment of theoretical austerity, seeking to commit ourselves only to a minimal theory, we strive to consider those close to us "as if" they had not minds and were not conscious, but were only behaving bodies. make the illustration as plain and grotesque as possible, you are approaching a moment of tenderness and passion with the woman you love, but for a moment you stop to reflect that theoretically you can treat her words and caresses as if there were no consciousness or mind behind them. That way madness lies!
(Death of the Soul From Descartes to the Computer, William Barrett 1913-,Anchor Press/DoubleDay 1986)

Maybe this embrace by modern man of science and technology's primacy, with its burden of "objective proof", has led to the migration into "fiction" of those concepts for which science has no proofs. "If science can't prove... something I said ... I can always say, ... it's only fiction....even though it's still the truth" If the following is indicative of the current direction of Western philosophy it is clear that Dr. Seuss might be a more reasonable source.

"Under what circumstances is it legitimate for political authorities, mere human beings, to exercise power over other human beings?....Mr. Habermas thinks that the question is especially urgent in an era that is "postmetaphysical" in the sense that it [society] has lost the sense that we have wholly external foundations by which to ground our judgments and choices. Whether or not we believe that God exists, it seems clear that as citizens in a heterogeneous society we must proceed on the understanding that our choices are our own."
The New York Times Book Review 8/18/96 by Cass R Sunstien review of Between Facts & Norms Contributions to a discourse theory of law and democracy by Jurgen Habermas (German political philosopher)

In 1989 Barrett tells us that philosophers asked that we proceed as though consciousness did not exists. Now a scant eight years later we are "postmetaphysical" and should proceed individually as if there is no basis of reality (metaphysics) at all?

But what does some esoteric twist of philosophy have to do with our everyday lives? In addition to Ryn's admonishment, " As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational ..process or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions...", a quote from Zbrigniew Brzenzinski, former National Security Advisor, may help illustrates why .

The 20th century- the century of megamyths and of megadeaths- spawned false notions of total control, derived from arrogant assertion of total righteousness. The religious man of pre-modern times, who accepted reality as God-ordained, had given way to the secular fanatic, increasingly inclined to usurp God in the effort to construct heaven on earth, subordinating not only nature but humanity itself to his own utopian vision. In the course of the century, this vision was perverted into the most costly exercise of political hubris in mankind's history: the totalitarian attempt to create coercive utopias. All of reality- on the objective level of social organization and on the subjective level of personal beliefs- was to be subject to doctrinal control from a single political center. The price paid in human lives for this excess is beyond comprehension.
Power and Morality. Zbrigniew Brzenzinski, World Monitor, March 1993, pp 22-28

If we were to ask Mr. Brzenzinski, or most any other member of Western civilization, to pick which of those underlined phases is more "real" the majority would answer "objective." The problem with this is that if your government is "real" and my beliefs are not; then we will soon be at war and probably won't stop until all our children are dead! One only has to look at the Middle East to see the consequences of this. Mr Brzenzinski knows well the power of life or death decisions in the global arena and yet he, like most of the rest of us, is handicapped by a metaphysical base with its ever narrowing foundation. If we were to apply the Metaphysics of Quality to Mr. Brzenzinskis' phrases might we not easily agree that, on the static quality level of social organization or on the static quality level of personal beliefs, your government is no more or less real than my consciousness? Though quite different, they are both equally real in so much as they are both comprised of identifiable, relatively stable patterns of values. We still can, and will, agree or disagree with each other whether or not a value is "objective" or "subjective" but we could no longer, as Ms Rand and others have, pitch the "subjective" and with it conscience out the window.

In an article, uncovered in my recent surf to the Institute's Website, titled "Fact and Value", Dr. Leonard Peikoff, Chairman Emeritus, of the Ayn Rand Institute, violently disagrees with a fellow objectivist over a statement by him that Ms Rand's philosophy "is not a closed system." Dr. Peikoff responds, "Every laid down once and for all by the philosophy's does not change with the growth of human knowledge, since it is the base and precondition to that growth" I agree with Dr. Leonard that an individual philosopher's ideas are indeed a "closed system" and would go even further to state that all philosophic inquiry has been effort to uncover "the closed system" of reality for all time. Where Dr. Peikoff and I might part company is that as we look at the history of Western philosophy we have literally hundreds of individual "closed systems" being built upon a "subject and object" base that is thousands of years old and that this direction of inquiry has led to a continuously "open system" still in pursuit of "the closed system" If we view Dr. Peikoff's article, Fact and Value, through Pirsig's value filter how does it fare. Dr. Peikoff states:

"Objectivism holds that value is objective (not intrinsic or subjective) value is based on and derives from the facts of reality (it does not derive from a mystical authority or from whim, personal or social).... Metaphysical given facts...cannot be evaluated. Sunshine, tidal waves, the law of gravity, et al are not good or bad; they simply are; such facts constitute reality and are thus the basis of all value-judgments."
(Fact and Value, Dr. Leonard Peikoff, The Intellectual Activist Vol V, Number 1- The Ayn Rand Institute-1989)

I agree that sunshine is a fact. By Pirsig's, and for that matter most generally accepted definitions of metaphysics , sunshine is NOT a metaphysical fact. Why, because sunshine is divisible into literally thousands of ivory tower, verifiable, objective values. If metaphysics is the absolute basic building block of reality how can it be divisible into yet more basic elements? So values are not a derivative of facts but just the reverse. Value is Value, facts are a stable body of values which change little over time, static qualities. As you read on in Dr. Peifoff's article's discussion of values you see things that sound very much like Pirsig.

"Reality......dictates and demands an entire code of values. Unlike lower species, man does not pursue proper values automatically; he must discover and choose them;"
(Fact and Value, Dr. Leonard Peikoff, The Intellectual Activist Vol V, Number1- The Ayn Rand Institute-1989)

H..mmm doesn't this sound real close to:

"Static Quality is the class of stable or accepted values, patterns, laws, customs, and theories that societies have formalized and that change little over time. "Dynamic Quality", on the other hand, are those values which are outside of any society, that cannot be contained by any system of precepts, but have to be continually rediscovered as a culture evolves".
(LILA: An Inquiry into Morals, Robert Pirsig 1928-, Bantam Book 1991)

It's what happens after the semi-colon in the quote from "Fact and Value" that is the parting of the ways between Objectivism and the Metaphysics of Quality.

"Unlike lower species, man does not pursue proper values automatically; he must discover and choose them; but this does not imply subjectivism."
(Fact and Value, Dr. Leonard Peikoff, The Intellectual Activist Vol V, Number 1- The Ayn Rand Institute-1989)

Objectivism rejects subjectivism as being outside reality even though it goes to great lengths to define: What is subjective? How can this be? Because Objectivism, like all Western philosophies, is built upon a subject and object base that has long since outlived it usefulness.

The problem, for both philosophers and common man alike, is that the answers to questions such as these lie in the murky, transcendent realms of our minds. Barrett characterizes it this way:

"How, then, is the transcendent always present, or possibly present, within that world? Simply because whatever we take in our ordinary perception is part of a larger context and ultimately of the totality of all that is.....Nor are we pushed into the transcendent realm merely as a matter of speculative questioning. Some of our more ordinary emotions really push us there, or already inhabit that region, although unbeknownst to the person who feels them. Consider that dull, wordless feeling that can gnaw at any of us and which we sometimes translate into the question, What is the meaning of my life? And perhaps further, What is the meaning of life? The mood, when it strikes us, cannot be answered on the level of empirical facts and clear-cut concepts-...But, following Kant, we would go farther: We exist within the question of God. We cannot escape it; it is always there for us, however we may seek to forget or evade it."
(Death of the Soul From Descartes to the Computer, William Barrett 1913-,Anchor Press/DoubleDay 1986)

Neither Rand or Pirsig have any love of Kant. While both disagree with him for different reasons the possible real reason they reject Kant is that they may have intuitively understood he led down a blind alley. A recent surf of the net turned up this interesting comment.

" me he [Kant] brought a trend to a conclusion(or a dead end). Of course there were no "evil" intentions from his side, but after Kant philosophy "entropied"; everything was said, we still write footnotes to him. So whatever progress there is now will necessarily be a break with Kant."
(Bjorn's Guide to Philosophy-Discussion Board-The Subject/Object Paradox? Posted by Bo Skutvik-June 13,1997)

In LILA> the hot stove/Dynamic Quality example, allows for this "always present" transcendent without demanding an answer to Kant's unanswerable question. But neither does it like Rand's Objectivism, totally and finally slam the door on any discussion of the question of God. What the Metaphysics of Quality, with values as its base, can do is provide a broad enough foundation to allow us to disagree about the precepts of our chosen dogma without the need kill each other; because your God is real, mine is dead, or his never existed.

So we are back the question; Now that we have gotten far enough into space to see that we are all on this big blue ball together isn't both logical and necessary that we find a common base of reality that is workable for all of humanity.? As important than Pirsig's foundation building for western philosophy is the potential for this system to unite all philosophies world wide is greater. In fact the jumping off point for Pirsig's investigation of philosophy was his desire to make some sense our American culture that is the results of the clash of the European with the Native American cultures. The common view is that the results are a total domination of the European over the Native cultures, and in areas such a technology and economics it has been, but in developments of other areas such as social and politic systems it is far less clear. One could argue that Rand's "rugged individualism" stems as much from Native cultures as European, and that the shaping of current American democracy is in a significant part due to Native influences. The dominance of Western technology over the last few centuries may have served to blind us to the weakness of our metaphysical base.

For a further illumination of the problem let's turn to not to the philosophers but to fiction. Tom Robbin's novel interpretation of Salome's Dance of the Seven Veils in "skinny legs and all" also suggests we have philosophical blinders, veils if you will, that screen modern man from reality.

  • Veil One- The Illusion of Sex: "The first of those veils conceals the repression of the Goddess, masks the sexual face of the planet, drapes the ancient foundation stone of erotic terror that props up modern man's religion."

  • Veil Two- The Illusion of Objects:. "The inertia of objects is deceptive. The inanimate world appears humans..we blind ourselves to the fact that most of the action in the universe is unfolding outside our range, occurring at speeds so much slower or faster than our own [perceptions] that it is hidden from us.."

  • Veil Three: The Illusion of Politics: "the third veil, the veil that permitted political expediencies (usually transitory, often stupid, regularly corrupt) to masquerade as timeless universal expressions of freedom, virtue, and good sense.

  • Veil Four: The Illusion of Religion: the fourth veil hides that " organized religion was a major obstacle to peace and understanding....the shock of this tough truth: religion is a paramount contributor to human misery.

  • Veil Five: The Illusion of Money: "the illusion of financial worth,..Money itself was incomprehensible.. introspective men and women finally had to confess that it clouded their vision of the world..."

  • Veil Six: The Illusion of Time: " ... when the sixth veil falls, the desensitizing, corrupting illusion of bullet-train history and its apocalyptic destination will surely dissolve. The patent truth is that nobody, regardless of race, religion, or personal enlightenment, nobody knows whether of not there is an afterlife. Only the dead know for sure and they aren't talking."

  • Veil Seven: The Illusion of Prophets: "...the illusion that you could get someone else to do it for you. To think for you. To hang on your cross. The priest, the rabbi, the iman, the swami, the philosophical novelist were traffic cops, at best. The might direct you through the busy intersection, but they wouldn't follow you home and park your car."
    (Skinny Legs and All, Tom Robbins, Bantam Books 1990.)

The illusion of the supremacy of Western philosophy is summed up by Pirsig this way:

" The cause of our current social crises, ..., is a genetic defect within the nature of reason itself. And until this genetic defect is cleared, the crises will continue. Our current modes of rationality are not moving society forward into a better world. They are taking it further and further from that better world. Since the Renaissance these modes have worked. As long as the need for food, clothing and shelter is dominant they will continue to work. But now that for huge masses of people these needs no longer overwhelm everything else, the whole structure of reason, handed down to us from ancient times, is no longer adequate. It begins to be seen for what it really is- emotionally hollow, esthetically meaningless and spiritually empty. That, today, is where it is at, and will continue to be at for a long time to come."
(Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig 1928-, William Morrow and Company-1974)

Yes, Robert, you probably are right, but at least at least you're shining a little light on the veils. Thanks.

The article to this point was purely personal ruminations based on my own reading over many years and during the last year (1997) surfing the Web for metaphysics, quality, values, and Pirsig related sites. Writing it sprung from two needs. One, the need to discover my philosophical base and two, compare this base with those of with my family and friends. What I discovered is that in my little world the majority of the inhabitants whether knowingly or unknowing subscribe to Ryn's "subconsciously accumulated a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions"

In October of this year I decided it was time to get some "other world" feedback so I e-mailed it to two people who have active websites discussing the MoQ. (Bo Skulvik & Martin Striz) Martin asked if he could post it on his site, I agreed, and he did. Today Oct 22, 1997 he e-mailed me the location of another site the Lila Squad which has some more recent discussions and some current comments by Pirsig. So now it gets scary because I know that my formal philosophical base is virtually nonexistent. Other than 53 years of "subconscious accumulation", it consists of primarily of five books read in the following order:

    Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:An Inquiry into Values- Robert M Pirsig

    Death of the Soul-From Descartes to the Computer-William Barrett

    Lila:An Inquiry into Morals- Robert M Pirsig

    The Story of Philosophy- Will Durant

    Philosophy Who Needs It-Ayn Rand

and a "withdrawl prior to failing" from Introduction into Logic from Montana State University. The thought which comes immediately to mind is: How dare I raise my voice to talk about an issue which, from a historical perspective, I effectively know nothing? I think the answer starts with Ryn's rhetorical question and ends with Pirsig's plea; Should'nt our basis of reality be simple enough for a five year old to understand? A bit more background before I plunge back into the fray. I am an architect, live in Arkansas, said to be the buckle of "Bible Belt", and had a nominal Christian upbringing equivalent to my philosophical upbringing. So the question of "quality" as it pertains to art and architecture is a integral part of my profession life. Not being a church goer, having a wife who is, and living where I do the "Question of God" or religion is also unavoidable.

An example in my field, which is similar to Pirsig's writing experiment, I like to use to illustrate our common understanding and agreement about quality is the buildings that house Walmart and Neiman Marcus. Even if we have never been in places of commerce such as these, once we arrive physically there we all can and do know by the external and then the internal "quality" their places establish in our minds how they will value their mechandise. I believe we could take a farmer from rural China who had never heard or seen either of these stores and he would, without ever seeing single piece of mechandise or one sales tag, come to a similar conclusion on the quality of their goods as any American soccer mom or Dallas socialite. Likewise as a serviceman walking the streets of Hong Kong or Singapore I knew which stores I could reasonably expect to buy something in even before entering the door. These physical manifestations of our underlying cross cultural understanding of quality are endless in the fields of both art and architecture.

On to the big one,"The question of God" and relegion. In a recent article in Christian Science Monitor, which my mother-in-law recycles to me, the headline screamed "God is Reality". The questions immediately popped up "Which God?", "Who's God?" What God?" A far as we can tell the question has been around since there has been a conscience man and we are no closer to the answer than he was. But if my understanding of MoQ is correct, and if (A HUGE IF) relegions and the relegious could accept it as a working basis of reality until such time as one of their gods steps up and solves the dilemma the world could be a much more Christian,Buddist,Islamic, et al place to live. MoQ allows the question to remain, the discussion to continue, does not proclaim their God is dead, and in fact acknowledges far more clearly than the Subject/Object base the reality of such activities as a part of our global social and intellectual fabric.

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