Have you been keeping up with all the stuff about the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, now almost universally known as “OWS” (which is clearly a play on the fact that these morons think the world owes them)?
I have to say that apart from seeing a few headlines comparing this movement with the tea party, and the shock photos of what these morons are doing, I have not taken that keen an interest. While it amazes me that the city allows a group of people to prevent other groups of people free movement and access to a city park, in order for the first group of people to make some stupid point about what the world owes them, I really don’t care.
It could be the start of some sort of self-destructive American autumn, destined to ultimately follow the same brutal path of the Arab Spring or it could fizzle into nothing, with the left bemoaning the fact that they could not turn it into the anarchy they so desire.
It could be anything or become anything. Right now, it does not know what it is…and is unlikely to unite under a single banner powerful enough to gain the general acceptance of society.
What I do find interesting is far more difficult to understand. And it lies at the core of what the OWS people are protesting.
The closest word I can think of is “value”. What the OWS folk want is value. What conservatives want is value. How do we measure value? If both sides of our society, which is currently drawn roughly into two groups, are both seeking “value”, then why is the chasm between the two groups (Conservatives and progressives) so great? Surely “value” has a common denominator that both sides can accept?
Trying to wrap my head around this concept forced my brain into hyper drive, and as I searched those old filing cabinets buried deeply in my memory (remember Stephen King’s wonderful book – Dreamchaser?) I found one that was buried between layers of cob webs…a drawer that had not been opened since 1975.
Laying inside was a short novel….”Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. Written by Robert M. Pirsig in 1974 the book describes a 17 day journey by motorcycle from Minnesota to California….and also, surprisingly, holds the answer to the “value” question.
Pirsig writes in his introduction that, despite its title, "it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It's not very factual on motorcycles, either."
When I picked up this book in 1975, this was my first clue that this book was going to be different…and I plunged into its pages with gusto.
It did not take long to realize that the author, in his travels, and through a close examination of his friends who accompanied him for the first nine days of the journey, had in fact determined that there were just two types of people on this earth:-
- those who are interested mostly in gestalts (romantic viewpoints, such as Zen, focused on being "In the moment", and not on rational analysis)
- those who seek to know the details, understand the inner workings, and master the mechanics (classic viewpoints with application of rational analysis, vis-a-vis motorcycle maintenance)
Or put another way….those who see the world the way they want it to be, and those who see the world the way it is.
Fantasy and reality.
With two broad based philosophies of life….broad ways of viewing the world….is there any wonder, then, that the members of those two groups have vastly different measurements of “value”?
The romantic, fantasy lovers see value in the filters that make their world fit their own views. They have no time for the nuts and bolts reality that keeps the world turning. They are inconsequential, of no interest and certainly of no value. But the esoteric philosophies of how things COULD be…..if only….and dare I say “hope and change”….these intangible distortions of truth that act as filters on the logical brain….now, those things have extraordinary value. They are the things that are worth demonstrating for…they are the things that make life better….they are the things worth forcing others to provide for you.
On the other hand, we have the conservative logicians. They may not like the way the world is working, but they understand it. They seek truth and knowledge as the cornerstone to changing the world to being what they want it to be. They are not fooled by the smoke and mirrors of intangible promises, but seek the deep understanding necessary to effect real change. “Hope and change” is not in their language….knowledge and action is their preferred method.
One group seeks to the change the world by denying the existence of natural laws….the other seeks to change the world by understanding and using natural laws.
The philosophical differences are so great that the determination of value cannot find a common denominator. What one group values, the other group despises.
And then you have the mass of folks in the middle who have tended not to think too much throughout their entire lifetimes. They are seduced by the fantasy lovers….not seduced with the rightness of ideas, but with the promise of freebies, with the promise of a world that provides for them regardless of what they themselves do, the promise of Shangri-la, rainbows and unicorns. The seduction is real. The intangible value of ideas are supported by the tangible gifts given to the thoughtless to seduce them to the fantasy side. The progressive thumbprint is all over the fantasy lovers.
The other side abhor the freebies, the gifts, the seduction. They hold value in the truth, in the battle of ideas, in the cut and thrust of knowledgeable debate. Their values are conservative. They do not buy supporters, they do not seduce people to their side with promises of free gifts. They encourage the thirst for knowledge, the value is in the truth.
Which do you value?
Truth or fantasy?
Do you understand how things work, how they can work better, how simple maintenance can create longer lasting motorcycles? Or do you live in a fantasy world where you expect everything to work perfectly even though you do not understand how it works, do not care how or it works, and do not maintain it in top operating efficiency?
Or you like the progressives who start out on a motorcycle trip without first ensuring the road- worthiness and mechanical sureness of your ride? Or are you like the conservative who prepares by ensuring your ride is mechanically sound, by understanding every nuance of its roar as you ride, by preparing for possible problems down the road, and accepting them as real, being prepared to overcome them?
Two philosophies….two measurements….two results.
One is derived from reality…the other fantasy.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance opened my eyes to this way back in 1975 when I was at University. When thoughts of girls, and surfing and free love and “damn the consequences” were the mainstay of the teenagers life, the concept of “value” and philosophical differences were of little consequence.
Robert M. Pirsig changed all that in one short story.
What I discovered was that by grounding my beliefs in truth and reality, I was able to enjoy my youth free of the constraints of “what if’s”. I knew value….I understood reality…and it’s twin sisters responsibility and accountability.
Those who continued to live by placing value in fantasy are the ones who are now best represented by the scraggly, uneducated, fantasy seeking morons of the OWS movement.
Is it fair to say that had it not been for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance I may have become one of those blithering idiots? I don’t know. I suspect that I have always had a strong desire to find truth, and would have found it anyway.
Right now, at this time in this Nation’s future, we have a President who does not know truth. We have a President who denies reality. We have a president who believes in the power of the imaginary.
And he has surrounded himself with folk who are of the same ilk.
Where is the voice of reason that whispers truth ion his ear?
He has banished such words from his court….and is in the process of banishing them from this country.
But do not be alarmed…truth and knowledge have a way of coming back to bite when least expected. The OWS crowd will become little more than a dark spot in one version of history….an irrelevant fantasy that created No value.
I will value reality over fantasy. I will value truth over deception. I will value conservatism over progressivism.
To steal an idea from Robert Pirsig….
….todays White House, despite its title, is in no way associated with being white and it is not very factual as being the people’s house…..
Nope. Fantasy…that is all we have in the White House today.