I’d like to say that I’m an “avid reader” but sadly, it seems that I only get through about four paragraphs before the book falls out of my unconscious hands as I fall asleep. Be that as it may, here’s some of what I’m tackling at the moment…Nov 23., 2008
Aristotle, A Komoto Dragon, and Hot Coffee?
What am I reading? Well, that’s a good question. I guess the main thing I’m reading right now is Robert Pirsig’s Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I’m sure most of you have read this but it was one of those books that I’d always heard referenced and just never read. Eventually you get in enough coffee shop discussions where the conversation goes something like the following and you begin to conclude that you might want to read the book:
Smart Person #1: “Yeah that’s really interesting, it reminds me of Persig’s ‘Metaphysics of Quality’!”
Smart Person #2: “Hmmm, yeah I see where you could come to that conclusion, especially given the fact that ‘Quality’ as such implies that [said subject] is not an object but rather an altogether different entity unto itself.”
Smart Person #1: “Exactly, and the only way it gains significance to the Ego is through the relationship with the Ego.”
Smart Person #2: “And Pirsig’s Quality is the “ether” or the “medium” by which all value in the world is derived in the world.”
Smart Person #1: “Oh of course, absolutely contradicting the Aristotelian/Classical interpretation of the subject-object relationship… What do you think Lowell?”
Me (frowning with that contrived look of someone who has no idea what they’ve just witnessed but is nevertherless trying to contribute something profound anyway): “Oh… ah yeah, I totally agree… I mean Aristotelian’s can’t be trusted. I mean who bases their framework for reality on a different species, let alone one with scales! I mean they aren’t even warm-blooded!” (sitting back with a smug grin, maybe even a chuckle of self-satisfaction).
Waitress: “Don’t you mean ‘Reptilian’? You idiot, they’re talking about Classical reason! Aristotle… Socrates… Plato… ever heard of them?! Not some silly lizards, the founders of modern thought… jeeez!”
Me (even more confident and smug and looking around at the two Smart People with that look of “Man, look at this girl! Poor thing… trying to hang with the big boys, hah!”): “Uh, I’m pretty sure I know the difference between Plato and Lizards… Come on, I don’t mean to be rude here but I think you’re a little over your head. This is serious conversation here… I mean guys like ‘us’ don’t talk about childish things like ‘Play Dough’. Look, there’s nothing wrong with making things out of clay. I mean, hell, we all went through that phase. But I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all moved forward from that point a long time ago.”
Waitress (pouring hot coffee in my lap): “Thanks for the tip ^&*#$%… I’m going to go finish my sculpture of the Parthenon I’ve been working on out back in between shifts!”
Me (rolling my eyes and looking at #1 and #2 who for some reason are picking up there coffee cups and assorted philosophy books, as if to leave… weird, we just got our coffee… Maybe they’re intimidated by my superior reasoning skills): “Wow… Can you say ‘Overreaction’! Can’t blame her really, still hung up on playing with clay… I mean how old are you, right? I finished with play dough when I was like four!”
#1 and #2 (breaking into a run, knocking over tables and small children as they rush for the exit): “Jeez look at the time. Wow, great conversation. Catch you some other time…”
Me (looking behind me for either a fire, the early signs of an earthquake, or a caffeine-crazed masked man intent on robbing the coffee shop): “What? Why? I mean I’m so clever and provocative and academic… right? Aren’t I? Guys… wait! I’m sorry! I get it. It’s the conversation right… I’m sorry I pushed it over your heads. You don’t have to be embarrassed… Really.”
I shrug and turn back to my half-cup of coffee, thinking, “Man Lowell, you had to go and show everyone up. Couldn’t just nod in agreement and let the conversation progress on a lower level. Had to show off your philosophical acumen… You just couldn’t help yourself… Egotistical. But seriously, I mean ‘Play Dough’? What was that about… Come on. Oh well, guess I’ll go home and study up on lizards. Seriously, what’s so intimidating about lizards. The Komoto Dragon… who doesn’t think that’s cool! I like Komoto Dragons.”
As I finish my cup, I notice that several of the patrons in the cafe are staring at me. A mother with a small five-year-old is pointing at me and saying something in hushed tones. The child listens to her mother, looks back at me, then starts… laughing? As I pass by, I hear the end of their conversation. The child struggles to choke up the words as she forces back fits of laughter, wiping snot from her nose. “He really didn’t…(hiccup, snort) know the difference between Plato and (tears rolling down her face now) Play Dough!”
I exit the cafe, comforted by the notion that I still have a book about lizards left over from middle-school. I’m sure I can clear this up. I’m sure I can figure out why my crotch is soaked with damp coffee and my so-called Smart Friends got intimidated and deserted me.
“Aristotelian… hmm…” A tiny thought starts tiptoeing bit, by bit into my consciousness… creeping, slinking, scaly, like a Komoto Dragon stalking it’s slumbering prey (pardon the metaphor.. I had too). “Aristotelian… It’s like a chameleon but more privileged and smarter… That’s what the ‘aristo’ part stands for, like an ‘aristocrat'”. Impressive. Come to think of it, I can’t remember that picture in my lizard book. Huh… I definitely must have just forgot it because I know I couldn’t be wrong about this… right? right?”
END OF LONG-WINDED DIALOGUE
Ok, so there you have it. I went home, discovered there was no Aristotelian Lizard and eventually found myself reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Maybe when I actually figure out what Pirsig is talking about I’ll follow up with you!