Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

Book Summary

Robert M. Pirsig blends qualities of novel and autobiography into his classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The book touches on philosophical concepts through the context of a memoir that features fictional elements .

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Notes and Quotes

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Summary

“You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.”

“On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it’s right there, so blurred you can’t focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience is never removed from immediate consciousness.”

“The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘Go away, I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away. Puzzling.”

“Unless you’re fond of hollering you don’t make great conversations on a running cycle. Instead you spend your time being aware of things and meditating on them.”

“We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it’s gone.”

Why birth control is polarizing among religious types: 

  • “What’s underneath is a conflict of faith, of faith in empirical social planning versus faith in the authority of God as revealed by the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

“You always surprises momentary anger at something you deeply and permanently hate.”

Prisig has friends who are anti-technology. They’re skeptical of its benefits, focusing more on the negatives instead. But…

  • “The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean the Buddha – which is to demean oneself.”

“I argued that physical discomfort is important only when the mood is wrong. Then you fasten on to whatever thing is uncomfortable and call that the cause. But if the mood is right, then physical discomfort doesn’t mean much.”

On one of the Pirsig’s first road trips with his son, the motorcycle stopped running. He didn’t know much about motorcycle maintenance then, and assumed that the heavy rain they endured on the road was the cause for the problem. He found out that the problem was the bike was out of gas.

  • “I didn’t understand then how foolish quick assumptions like that are. Now we are on a twenty-right horse machine and I take the maintenance of it very seriously.”

“Caring about what you are doing is considered either unimportant or taken for granted.”

“When you want to hurry something, that means you no longer care about it and want to get on to other things.”

On his friend, John, one of his anti-technology friends: 

  • “He isn’t so interested in what things mean as in what they are. That’s quite important, that he sees things this way.”

“This comes up all the time in mechanical work. A hang-up. You just sit and stare and think, and search randomly for new information, and go away and come back again, and after a while the unseen factors start to emerge.”

“Some things you miss because they’re so tiny you overlook them. But some things you don’t see because they’re so huge.

  • “We were both looking at the same thing, seeing the same thing, talking about the same thing, thinking about the same thing, except he was looking, seeing, talking and thinking from a completely different dimension.”

Conflicting visions of reality:

  • There’s the world as you see it versus the world as it’s seen through other perspectives.
    • When your point of view is different from someone else’s, it’s an intrusion on your reality. You may feel threatened by this notion.

The dichotomy of classic and romantic:

  • “A classical understanding sees the world primarily as underlying form itself. A romantic understanding sees it primarily in terms of immediate appearance.”
    • “The romantic mode is primarily inspirational, imaginative, creative, intuitive. Feelings rather than facts predominate.”
      • Romantics see classic mode as “dull, awkward and ugly”.
    • “The classic mode, by contrast, proceeds by reason and by laws – which are themselves underlying forms of thought and behavior.”
    • “The classic style is straightforward, unadorned, unemotional, economical and carefully proportioned. It’s purpose is not to inspire emotionally, but to bring order out of chaos and make the unknown know it is not an esthetic ally free and natural style. It is esthetically restrained. Everything is under control. Its value is measured in terms of the skill with which this control is maintained.”
    • To a classic, the romantic mode appears frivolous, irrational, erratic, untrustworthy, interested primarily in pleasure-seeking, shallow, of no substance. “Often a parasite who cannot or will not carry his own weight. A real drag on society.”
  • Motorcycle riding = romantic while motorcycle maintenance = classic
  • The source of the trouble are the battle lines drawn between the two modes.
    • “Persons tend to think and feel exclusively in one mode or the other and in doing so tend to misunderstand and underestimate what the other mode is all about.”

“When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process.”

  • At the same time “something is always created, too.”
  • “And instead of just swelling on what is killed it’s important also to see what’s created and to see the process as a kind of death-birth continuity that is neither good nor bad, but just is.”

Systems “are sustained by structural relationships even when they have lost all other meaning and purpose.

  • “People arrive at a factory and perform a totally meaningless task from eight to five without question because the structure demands that it be that way. There’s no villain, no ‘mean guy’ who wants them to live meaningless lives, it’s just that the structure, the system demands it and no one is willing to take on the formidable task of changing the structure just because it’s meaningless.
    • “But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible.”

“Steel has no more shape than this old pile of dirt in the engine here. These shapes are all out of someone’s mind. That’s important to see.”

Logic: the way to find your way through hierarchies and systems.

Two kinds of logic

  • “Inductive inferences start with observations of the machine and arrive at general conclusions.”
    • Inductive inferences: “reasoning from particular experiences to general truths.”
  • “Deductive inferences do the reverse. They start with general knowledge and predict a specific observation.”
  • The scientific method uses a combination of seductive and inductive reasoning. Pirsig says he only resolves to using this for really big questions about his motorcycle.
    • Making sure that nature hasn’t misled you to thinking you know something that you don’t. “That’s the main reason why so much scientific and mechanical information sounds so dull and so cautious. If you get careless or go on romanticizing scientific information, giving it a flourish here and there, Nature will soon make a complete fool out of you.”
    • “Scientific questions often have a surface appearance of dumbness for this reason. They are asked in order to prevent dumb mistakes later on.”

“Sometimes just the act of writing down the problems straightens out your head as to what they really are.”

“An experiment is never a failure solely because it fails to achieve predicted results. An experiment is a failure only when it also fails adequately to test the hypothesis in question, when the data it produces don’t prove anything one way or another.”

Physical labor is the easiest part of a mechanic’s job. “By far the greatest part of his work is careful observation and precise thinking. That is why mechanics sometimes seem so taciturn and withdrawn when performing tests. They don’t like it when you talk to them because they are concentrating on mental images, hierarchies, and not really looking at you or the physical motorcycle at all.”

He cites a passage from a speech conducted by Albert Einstein. It begins like this: “In the temple of science are many mansions…”

  • “The state of mind which enables a man to do work of this kind is akin to that of the religious worshipper or lover. The daily effort comes from no deliberate intention or program, but straight from the heart.”

 “The formation of hypotheses is the most mysterious of all the categories of scientific method. Where they come from, no one knows.”

Phaedrus coined a humorous law about the nature of hypotheses: “The number of rational hypotheses that can explain any given phenomenon is infinite.”

  • “If true, that law is not a minor flaw in scientific reasoning. The law is completely nihilistic. It is a catastrophic logical disproof of the general validity of all scientific method!”

Phaedrus found that “the time spans of scientific truths are inverse function of the intensity of scientific effort.”

  • Newer scientific discoveries have shorter life spans because there’s much more scientific activity.
  • “What shortens the lifespan of the existing truth is the volume of hypotheses offered to replace it; the more hypotheses offered to replace it; the shorter the span of the truth.”
  • Paradoxically the scientific method is contributing to the movement away from the scientific method.
  •  “Through multiplication upon multiplication of facts, information, theories and hypotheses, it is science itself that is leading mankind from single absolute truths to multiple, indeterminate, relative ones.”

“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.”

“He felt that institutions such as schools, churches, governments, and political organizations of every sort all tended to direct thought for ends other than truth, for the perpetuation of their own functions, and for the control of individuals in the service of these functions.

  • “He came to see his early failure as a lucky break, an accidental escape from a trap that had been set for him, and he was very trap-wary about institutional truths for the remainder of his time.”

“Lateral knowledge is knowledge that’s from a wholly unexpected direction, from a direction that’s not even understood as a direction until the knowledge forces itself upon one. Lateral truths point to the falseness of axioms and postulates underlying one’s existing system of getting at truth.”

  • “Drifting is what one does when looking at lateral truth.”

Phaedrus joined the army and was sent to Korea.

  • This was a turning point in his thinking as his letters from there were different.
  • “They just explode with emotion. He writes page after page about tiny details of things he sees: marketplaces, shops with sliding glass doors, slate roofs, roads, thatched huts, everything. Sometimes full of wild enthusiasm, sometimes depressed, sometimes angry, sometimes even humorous, he is like someone or some creature that has found an exit from a cage he did not even know was around him, and is wildly roaming over the countryside visually devouring everything in sight.”

Phaedrus got into philosophy and “discovered that the science he’d once thought of as the whole world of knowledge is only a branch of philosophy, which is far broader and far more general.”

The high country of the mind

  • in the world of thought
  • “If all human knowledge, everything that’s known, is believed to be an enormous hierarchic structure, then the high country of the mind is found at the uppermost reaches of this structure in the most general, the most abstract considerations of all.”
  • Not many people travel here because there’s not much to gain from wandering around in this area. But it does have its own beauty that’s worth appreciating.
  • “In the high country of the mind one has to become adjusted to the thinner air of uncertainty, and to the enormous magnitude of questions asked, and to the answers proposed to these questions.”

Empiricism: “all knowledge is derived exclusively from the senses.”

  • Examples
    • The scientific method of experimentation
    • Common sense
  • The first problem if it’s believed “concerns the nature of ‘substance’.”
    • “If all our knowledge comes from sensory data, what exactly is this substance which is supposed to give off the sensory data itself?
      •  “Since all knowledge comes from sensor impressions and since there’s no sensory impression of substance itself, it follows logically that there is no knowledge of substance. It’s just something we imagine. It’s entirely within our own minds.”
  • Second problem: “if one starts with the premise that all our knowledge comes to us through our senses, one must ask, From what sense data is our knowledge of causation received? In other words, what is the scientific empirical basis of causation itself?
    •  David Hume’s answer: none There is no “causation in our sensations. Like substance, it’s just something we imagine when one thing repeatedly follows another. It has no real existence in the world we observe.”

Immanuel Kant: Critique of Pure Reason argues that reason can become destructive of itself.

A priori: relating to or denoting reasoning or knowledge that proceeds from theoretical deduction rather than from observation or experience.

Phaedrus tired of all these philosophical concepts presented to him at school.

  • “It was reason itself that was ugly and there seemed no way to get free.”

“It’s a problem of our time. The range of human knowledge today is so great that we’re all specialists and the distance between specializations has become so great that anyone who seeks to wander freely among them almost had to forego closeness with the people around him.”

While in India, Phaedrus became frustrated in a certain kinds of philosophies that promoted that much of what we believe to be reality is actually illusory.

  • “for Phaedrus and for anyone else who reads newspapers regularly and is concerned with such things as mass destruction of human beings that answer was hopelessly inadequate.”

“You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it’s going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it’s always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.”

“To travel is better than to arrive.”

“It’s not the technology that’s scary. It’s what it does to the relations between people, like callers and operators, that’s scary.”

Saying from Pirsig: “Assembly of Japanese bicycle require great peace of mind.”

  • “The ultimate test’s always your own serenity. If you don’t have this when you start and maintain it while you’re working you’re likely to build your personal Robles’s right into the machine itself.”

“You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge. And if you project forward from that pattern, then sometimes you can come up with something.”

“What’s wrong with technology is that it’s not connected in any real way with matters of the spirit and of the heart. And so it does blind; ugly things quite by accident and gets hated for that.”

Pirsig points out that by developing Calculus, Issac Newton “invented a new form of reason.”

  • “I think what is needed now is a similar expansion of reason to handle technological ugliness. The trouble is that the expansion has to be made at the roots, not at the branches, and that’s what makes it hard to see.
  • “We’re living in topsy-turvy times, and I think that what causes the topsy-turvy feeling is inadequacy is old forms of thought to deal with new experiences.
  • “I think present-day reason is an analogue of the flat earth of the medieval period. If you go too far beyond it you’re presumed to fall off, into insanity. And people are very much afraid of that. I think this fear of insanity is comparable to the fear people once had of falling off the edge of the world. Or the fear of heretics. There’s very close analogue here.”
  • “Our whole system of knowledge stems from their results. We’ve yet to understand the methods that produced these results.”

Phaedrus taught a class in which students needed to mimic the style of writer’s in a paper. This served no beneficial purpose whatsoever for the student to develop their writing, it actually made their writing worst.

  • “And he became convinced that all the writers the students were supposed to mimic wrote without rules, putting down whatever sounded right, then going back to see if it still sounded right and changing it if it didn’t.“

A fellow professor would tell Phaedrus to teach “Quality” to his students. But Phaedrus wondered how you could define this term in a finite way.

  • “But for all practical purposes it really does exist. What else are the grades based in? Why else would people pay fortunes for some things and throw others in the trash pile? Obviously some things are better than others…but what’s the ‘betterness’?… So round and round you go, spinning mental wheels and nowhere finding any place to get traction. What the hell is Quality? What is it?”

On mountains as a metaphor of an obstacle blocking a goal.

  • “Like those in the valley behind us, most people stand in sight of the spiritual mountains all their lives and never enter them, being content to listen to others who have been there and thus avoid hardships. Some travel into the mountains accompanied by experienced guides who know the best and least dangerous routes by which they arrive at their destination. Still others, inexperienced and untrusting, attempt to make their own routes, few of these are successful, but occasionally some, by sheer will and luck and grace, do make it. Once there they become more aware than any of the others that there’s no single or fixed number of routes. There are as many routes as there are individual souls.

“Schools teach you to imitate. If you don’t imitate what the teacher wants you get a bad grade. Here, in college, it was more sophisticated, of course; you were supposed to imitate the teacher in such a way as to convince the teacher you were not imitating, but taking the essence of the instruction and going ahead with it on your owns that got you A’s. Originality on the other hand could get you anything – from A to F. The whole grading system cautioned against it.”

The idea of abolishing the grade and degree system of schools in theory would weed people who weren’t there to learn out of the system.

  • People who were just there to get their accreditation would flunk out with no hard feelings.
    • “This is what should have happened. He wasn’t there for a real education in the first place and had no real business there at all. A large amount of money and effort had been saved and there would be no stigma of failure and ruin to haunt him the rest of his life. No bridges had been burned.”
  • Calls the student’s biggest problem  “a slave mentality which had been built into him by years of carrot-and-whip grading, a mule mentality which said, ‘If you don’t whip me, I won’t work.’”

“The purpose of abolishing grades and degrees is not to punish mules or to get rid of them but to provide an environment in which that mule can turn into a free man.”

The person who flunks out of the class would then go into a real trade and have to learn a skill as a “low-status mule.” But then over time, this person would come to realize that he could do a better job at building some of the things that he used in his trade.

  • Thus, an internal motivation for education would then develop.
  • “He’d no longer be a grade-motivated person. He’d be a knowledge-motivated person. He would need no external pushing to learn. His push would come from inside. He’d be a free man. He wouldn’t need a lot of discipline to shape him up…
  • “Motivation of this sort, once it catches hold, is a ferocious force, and in the gradeless, degreeless institution where our student would find himself, he wouldn’t stop with rote engineering information.”

The gradeless system that Phaedrus created made his classes more relaxed and friendly. People just didn’t put so much pressure on themselves to achieve a specific outcome.

  • What the students told him: “A lot of us got together outside of class to try to figure out how to beat this system. Everyone decided the best way was just to figure you were going to fail and then go ahead and do what you could anyway. Then you could relax. Otherwise you go out of your mind!”

At the end of the quarter, he surveyed students on their feelings about the system. What he found was that most of the students who liked it were the A students. The B and C students were evenly divided. The failing students were opposed to it unanimously.”

  • “This surprising result supported a hunch he had had for a long time: that the brighter more serious students were the least desirous of grades, possibly because they were more interested in the subject matter of course, whereas the dull or lazy students were the most desirous of grades, possibly because grades told them if they were getting by.”

“Grades really cover up a failure to teach.”

“The real purpose of withholding the grades was to force them to look within themselves, the only place they would ever get a really right answer.”

  • At the same time there is a paradox. Students or people in general seek knowledge because they don’t know the difference between what’s bad and good. The instructor’s job was to teach them this difference.
    • So Phaedrus went back to the old system.
      • “When spontaneity and individuality and really good original stuff occurred in a classroom it was in spite of the instruction, not because of it. This seemed to make sense. He was ready to resign. Teaching dull conformity to hateful students wasn’t what he wanted to do.”

“Mental reflection is so much more interesting than TV it’s a shame more people don’t switch over to it. They probably think what they hear is unimportant but it never is.”

“Any effort that has self-glorification as its final endpoint is bound to end in disaster. Now we’re paying the price. When you try to climb a mountain to prove how big you are, you almost never make it. And even if you do it’s a hollow victory. In order to sustain the victory you have to prove yourself again and again in some other way, and again and again and again, driven forever to fill a false image haunted by the fear that the image is not true and someone will find out. That’s never the way.”

“To the untrained eye ego climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical. Both kinds of climbers place one foot in front of the other. Both breathe in and out at the same rate. Both stop when tired. Both go forward when rested.

  • “But what a difference! The ego climber is like an instrument that’s out of adjustment. He puts his foot down an instant too soon or too late. He’s likely to miss a beautiful passage of sunlight through the trees. He goes on when the sloppiness of his step shows he’s tired. He rests at odd times. He looks up the trail trying to see what’s ahead even when he knows what’s ahead because he just looked a second before. He goes too fast or too slow for the conditions and when he talks his talk is forever about somewhere else, something else.
  • “He’s here but he’s not here. He rejects the here, is unhappy with it, wants to be father up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then it will be ‘here.’
  • “What he’s looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesn’t want that because it is all around him. Every step’s an effort, both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant.”

“Scientific materialism is commoner among lag followers of science than among scientists themselves, holds that what’s composed of matter or energy and is measurable by the instruments of science is real. Anything else is unreal or at least of no importance.”

World according to Phaedrus was composed of three things: mind, matter, and Quality.

Quality is an event. It is what creates the subject and object, rather than being the effect of them, Phaedrus concluded.

“The past exists only in our memories, the future only in our plans. The present is our only reality. The tree that you are aware of intellectually because of that small time lag, is always in the past and therefore is always unreal. Any intellectually conceived object is always in the past and therefore unreal. Reality is always the moment of vision before the intellectualization takes place. There is no other reality.

  • “This preintellectual reality is what Phaedrus felt he had properly identified as Quality. Since all intellectually identifiable things must emerge from this preintellectual reality, Quality is the parent, the source of all subjects and objects.”

“People differ about Quality, not because Quality is different, but because people are different in terms of experience.”

“One thing about pioneers that you don’t hear mentioned is that they are invariably, by their nature, mess-makers. They go forging ahead, seeing only their noble, distant goal, and never notice any of the crud and debris they leave behind them. Someone else gets to clean that up and it’s not a very glamorous or interesting job.”

“In all of the Oriental religions great value is placed on the Sanskrit doctrine of Tat tvam asi, ‘Thou art that,’ which asserts that everything you think you are and everything you think you perceive are undivided. To realize fully this lack of division is to become enlightened.“

“Mental reflection is so much more interesting than TV it’s a shame more people don’t switch over to it. They probably think what they hear is unimportant but it never is.”

“When you try to climb a mountain to prove how big you are, you almost never make it. And even if you do it’s a hollow victory.”

  • “To the untrained eye ego-climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical.”

At one point in their journey, Prisig’s son, Chris, is unhappy about where they are. Prisig notes the following observation: 

  • “He’s here but he’s not here. He rejects the here, is unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then it will be “here.” 

“I think it’s important now to tie care to Quality by pointing out that care and Quality are internal and external aspects of the same thing. A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares.”

“I think the basic fault that underlies the problem of stuckness is traditional rationality’s insistence upon “objectivity,””

Prisig on the concepts of past, present, and future:

  • “The past cannot remember the past. The future can’t generate the future. The cutting edge of this instant right here and now is always nothing less than the totality of everything there is.”

“Stuckness shouldn’t be avoided. It’s the psychic predecessor of all real understanding.”

  • “It’s this understanding of Quality as revealed by stuckness which so often makes self-taught mechanics so superior to institute-trained men who have learned how to handle everything except a new situation.”
  • “What your actual solution is is unimportant as long as it has Quality.”

“Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce right thoughts. Right thoughts produce right actions and right actions produce work which will be a material reflection for others to see of the serenity at the center of it all.”

Make a difference in the world by improving yourself first. That’s what Prisig seems to argue in this next statement:

  • The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there. 

Prisig talks about the idea of gumption relative to motorcycle maintenance. At its core, gumption is the notion of being action-oriented.

  • “A person filled with gumption doesn’t sit around dissipating and stewing about things. He’s at the front of the train of his own awareness, watching to see what’s up the track and meeting it when it comes.”
  • “The gumption-filling process occurs when one is quiet long enough to see and hear and feel the real universe, not just one’s own stale opinions about it.
  • “Gumption is the psychic gasoline that keeps the whole thing going.”
  • “But if you have got it and know how to keep it there’s absolutely no way in this whole world that motorcycle can keep from getting fixed. It’s bound to happen. 
  • “Motorcycle maintenance gets frustrating. Angering. Infuriating. That’s what makes it interesting.”

Some gumption traps that we often face within ourselves:

  1. Value Rigidity: The inability to learn and let go of old ideas.
  2. Anxiety: “Anxiety, the next gumption trap, is sort of the opposite of ego. You’re so sure you’ll do everything wrong you’re afraid to do anything at all.”
  3. Boredom: You’ve lost that sense of newness, freshness, or beginner’s mind with an activity.
  4. Impatience: Similar to boredom, but comes from underestimating how long something will take.

“If you have a high evaluation of yourself then your ability to recognize new facts is weakened.”

  • “When the facts show that you’ve just goofed, you’re not as likely to admit it. When false information makes you look good, you’re likely to believe it.” 

How to cure boredom:

  • “When you’re bored, stop! Go to a show. Turn on the TV. Call it a day. Do anything but work on that machine.”
  • “My favorite cure for boredom is sleep. It’s very easy to get to sleep when bored and very hard to get bored after a long rest.”

How to cure impatience:

  • “Impatience is best handled by allowing an indefinite time for the job, particularly new jobs that require unfamiliar techniques; by doubling the allotted time when circumstances force time planning; and by scaling down the scope of what you want to do.”

“When your answer to a test is indeterminate it means one of two things: that your test procedures aren’t doing what you think they are or that your understanding of the context of the question needs to be enlarged.”

To be good at motorcycle maintenance, or any endeavor, you need to work on yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, it will be hard to accomplish anything.

  • “If you’re a sloppy thinker the six days of the week you aren’t working on your machine, what trap avoidances, what gimmicks, can make you all of a sudden sharp on the seventh? It all goes together.”
  • “The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself. The machine that appears to be “out there” and the person that appears to be “in here” are not two separate things. They grow toward Quality or fall away from Quality together.”

“It’s paradoxical that where people are the most closely crowded, in the big coastal cities in the East and West, the loneliness is the greatest.”

  • “The explanation, I suppose, is that the physical distance between people has nothing to do with loneliness. It’s psychic distance, and in Montana and Idaho the physical distances are big but the psychic distances between people are small, and here it’s reversed.”

“There’s this primary America of freeways and jet flights and TV and movie spectaculars. And people caught up in this primary America seem to go through huge portions of their lives without much consciousness of what’s immediately around them. The media have convinced them that what’s right around them is unimportant.”

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