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Here is a passage from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Pirsig has had a bad experience with a motorcycle repair shop, where some mechanics who didn’t care about their work totally screwed up his motorcycle engine. It’s from pages 34-35, at the end of chapter two:

While at work I was thinking about this same lack of care in the digital computer manuals I was editing. Writing and editing technical manuals is what I do for a living the other eleven months of the year and I knew they were full of errors, ambiguities, omissions and information so completely screwed up you had to read them six times to make any sense out of them.

The mechanics in their attitude toward the machine were really taking no different attitude from the manual’s attitude toward the machine, or from the attitude I had when I brought [the motorcycle into the shop]. We were all spectators.

But what struck me for the first time was the agreement of these manuals with the spectator attitude I had seen in the shop. These were spectator manuals. It was built into the format of them. Implicit in every line is the idea that “Here is the machine, isolated in time and in space from everything else in the universe. It has no relationship to you, you have no relationship to it, other than to turn certain switches, maintain voltage levels, check for error conditions …” and so on. That’s it. The mechanics in their attitude toward the machine were really taking no different attitude from the manual’s attitude toward the machine, or from the attitude I had when I brought it in there. We were all spectators. And it occurred to me there is no manual that deals with the real business of motorcycle maintenance, the most important aspect of all. Caring about what you are doing is considered either unimportant or taken for granted.

On this trip I think we should notice it, explore it a little, to see if in that strange separation of what man is from what he does we may have some clues as to what the hell has gone wrong in this twentieth century. [You don’t need to be Marx to see that people have become alienated from their work!] I don’t want to hurry it. That itself is a poisonous twentieth-century attitude. When you want to hurry something, that means you no longer care about it, and want to get on to other things. I just want to get at it slowly, but carefully and thoroughly, with the same attitude I remember was present just before I found that sheared pin. It was that attitude that found it, nothing else.

Related book

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig

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