About Reading Lila

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Updated: June 21, 2010 after launch of modified online version.

When?

In early March 2010 I began my third reading of “Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals” by Robert Pirsig. I returned to it for inspiration which it quickly began to provide. I wanted to share some of that inspiration by sending out some quotations on Twitter. I soon realized that there were too many to choose from – and that some far exceeded the 140 character limit imposed by Twitter. The result was a playful attempt to send out a philosophical metaphysics in bursts of short messages.

How?

I would sit, usually first thing in the morning, and read a part of the book. When I felt I had gone through a part I wanted to to send out I’d stop reading. Then, depending on my energy and inspiration, and usually on the following morning, I would re-read it and send out select quotes via Twitter. I stripped out almost all of the dramatic story line and focused on the philosophical inquiry that inspired me. A few times I encountered sections that were very difficult for me to process – which put me off any more writing and reading for a few days. I sent out the first message on March 7 and the last message on May 2 (I estimate approximately 1000 messages).

Soon after the process started I realized that I was creating a kind of excerpt of the book and that I would want to be able to review it as a whole. Luckily I was able to do this. The software running my website has a component that automatically collects all of my updates on Twitter into a single weekly post. Luckily it does this in chronological (oldest to newest) order, so it was very easy for me to string together all of the separate parts. Once a week I would extract all of the relevant updates from this post, add them and edit them a bit more to what accumulated into an excerpt of the book. It was published as the 500th post on my website.

I though that was the end of it. Then last week I was sitting in the morning staring out the window asking myself what I’d like to do that day. I didn’t feel like doing any of the obvious things on my agenda. So I dis some more staring. Then I started seeing images from my work coupled together with some of the ideas in “Lila”. That same day I sat down and experimented with a formatting that combined text and images – and this PDF was born.

I really thought that was the end of that. But then (originally prompted by a comment by Bob on this very post), when I began to think about updating the design of this website, I found myself dedicating an entire section to it. Now the online version has caught up with the PDF version and includes imagery and a similar formatting (this is what it looked like before).

What?

The sequence of this excerpt remains true to the book. It’s division into sections and the title of each section is an ongoing and spontaneous editorial choice I made. Each section represents what I perceived to be a coherent idea or theme. Each title is a motive that shimmered to me and originally served primarily as a mnemonic bookmark. The rest of the words are directly from the book.

The editing process was mostly spontaneous and affected by my understanding, my preferences and the requirement for conciseness imposed by Twitter. There were no professional intentions or processes employed. There was no objective – it was a playful endeavor. I take full credit for any errors, misunderstandings, alterations of context or other incoherences that may have resulted.

Why?

I have drawn much inspiration and insight from both of Robert  Pirsig’s books “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and it’s sequal “Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals“.

In the 25th edition of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” (where the journey picked up in “Lila” began) that I have, I found two relevant quotations to answer why I did this. The first is an afterward by Robert Pirsig:

“There were no deep manipulative ulterior motives. Writing it seemed to have a higher quality than not writing it.”

The second is the opening of James Landis’ (the book’s publisher) keynote presentation of the book to his colleagues before publishing:

“This is, in an ultimate sense, a book about living, about how to live and, at least by inference, about why.”

The world I live in feels ‘not right’. All of my attempts, to date, to find a place in this world have come up short. I am therefore in a movement towards isolation – of distancing myself from this world. Yet, despite all my tempering, there is something passionate inside me that wants to touch and connect. I do see evidence of good and better amidst the pointless noise – they give me support and hope.

My Yoga teacher suggests that sometimes we need to “fake it until we make it”. I am trying to embrace the world around me, especially the parts that cause me to revolt. My default position is not “What is wrong with the world?” but rather “What am I not seeing?”. It’s not yet an instinctual attitude – I am still faking it, hoping that one day I will make it. Robert Pirsig’s writing has been a great support in this endeavour – shedding new, cohesive, embracing, intellectual and inspiring perspective on this world I live in. In this spirit I share it with you.

Images

All of the images in this document were created during recent years within a process of creative exploration which started in the summer of 2006 (very shortly after I ended my career) and met Shahar Dor. Shahar is a living manifestation of Dynamic Quality. Our meeting was a divine turning point in my life. He invited me into his world. He gave me refuge from the outside world and ushered me into a space in which, for what felt like the first time in an otherwise dull and pointless life, I could appear. On numerous occasions I felt like I was in an insane asylum – but one in which insanity was a prized possession not an illness to be cured.

All of the images are spontaneous occurrences. All of the images are a result of a meeting between digital technology and human nature. Some took place in practice settings others took place in performance settings, some took place somewhere in between – performances with performers and no crowd. Some took place indoors, some took place outside, some took place in Israel, some took place in Europe. It was never about a pursuit of an image – it was always a pursuit of presece. There was never foreknowledge of what would come and there were many disappointments. There were also many moments of pure joy – a sense of individual presence, a sense of connection and a sense of an embracing presence that goes beyond words.

Online

This excerpt is available online in both an HTML web page and as this downloadable PDF. At the time of this writing the PDF version has gone through another editing cycle but the HTML remains more dynamic. The HTML web-page is built with internal page links (anchors) – which make it possible to link not only to the page itself but also to specific sections. This makes it possible for me to reference parts of the excerpt in other writings and also in other place on the Internet (for example – when I comment on other people’s websites). Some of these references accumulate at the bottom of the web page making it a Dynamic collection of other related resources. In addition the web-page has some embedded links to resources that expand on or relate to some of Pirsig’s references. I expect the web-page will continue to change, more then the PDF.

PS: 500 Posts

‘Reading Lila’ was the 500th post I published. My website displays posts in reverse chronological order – new ones appear before the older ones.  This post was posted later because: (1) I wanted and timed the actual reading to be the 500th post;  (2) I only wrote it after I completed and published the reading process; (3) It was intended to reference the reading itself and appear as a foreword to it.

PPS: Mark

My usage of Twitter is not very social. I follow very few people and strive to follow less. I don’t care how many followers I have and sometimes I also block followers who are ‘mass-followers’ (who follow, or so they like to make others think, thousands of people) who I don’t want hanging around my karma.

Yet, I was constantly aware that this game I was playing was causing a flood of updates to anyone who was following me (I believe I sent out ~1000 updates in this reading). I did most of my writing in my (local time) mornings – while most of the people following me (at least those in the USA) were sleeping and therefore spared the real-time flood I was generating.

One of the people I follow is Mark Surman – a unique individual who’s work I appreciate and admire. He is currently involved in a project called Drumbeat which is about spreading an awareness about the freedom of the internet and which stronly resonates with my interpretation of freedom.  During the reading I sent a reply twitter message to Mark who in response, and to my surprise, followed me. I was excited and happy about this. Mark represents, to me,  one of the rare islands of good and better that makes me want to reach out and partake.

A day or two later I felt like reading and writing a second time in the same day. It was evening (local time) which meant late morning USA time – which meant my updates would be showing up in real-time for the people following me on Twitter. And, as luck would have it, the section I was reading was about Insanity. I don’t know if it’s what ‘I said’, or how much ‘I said’, but my hunch was right – Mark unfollowed me. I considered that a loss, not important, but a loss.

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