This post contains excerpts from Robert Pirsig's book Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals.

The words are all his, the editing choices are all mine, the consequences of reading are all yours.

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Dynamic & Static

Trying to create a perfect metaphysics is like trying to create the perfect chess opening, one that will win every time. You can’t do it.

… Dynamic Quality is the pre-intellectual cutting edge of reality, the source of all things, completely simple and always new … It’s only perceived good is freedom and it’s only perceived evil is static quality itself … any pattern of one-sided fixed value that tries to contain and kill the ongoing free force of life.

Static Quality emerges in the wake of Dynamic Quality. It is old and complex. It always contains a component of memory … Good is conformity to an established pattern of fixed values and value objects. Static morality is full of heroes and villains, loves and hatreds, carrots and sticks. It’s values don’t change by themselves. Unless they are altered by Dynamic Quality they say the same thing year after year … sometimes loudly … sometimes softly … always the same

… When the person who sits on the stove first discovers his low-quality situation, the front edge of his experience is dynamic. He does not think ‘This stove is hot’ and then make a rational decision to get off … a ‘dim perception of he knows not what’ gets him off dynamically. Later he generates static patterns of thought to explain the situation.

A subject-object metaphysics presumes that this kind of Dynamic action without thought is rare and ignored it when possible. But mystic learning goes in the opposite direction and tries to hold to the ongoing Dynamic edge of all experience, both positive & negative … of the two kinds of students, those who study only subject-object science and those who study only meditative mysticism … it would be the mystic students who would get off the stove first. The purpose of mystic meditation is not to remove oneself from experience but to bring one’s self closer … by eliminating static attachments

… imagine that you walk down the street past a car where someone has the radio on and it plays a tune you’ve never heard before but which is so fantastically good it just stops you in your tracks. You listen until it’s done. Days later you remember exactly what the street looked like when you heard that music… store window, colors of cars, clouds in the sky … and it all comes back so vividly you wonder what song they were playing, so you wait until you hear it again …

One day it comes on the radio and you get the same feeling again.. you catch the name … rush to the store … and buy it … You get home. You play it. It’s really good. It doesn’t quite transform the room … but it’s really good. You play it again. Really good. You play it another time. Still good but you are not sure you want to play it again. But you play it again … it’s okay … you put it away … The next day you play it again, and it’s OK, but something is gone … you file it away and once in a while play it again for a friend …

What has happened? … has the song lost its quality? Either it’s good or it’s not good. If it’s good why don’t you play it? The first good that made you want to buy the record was Dynamic Quality … comes as a sort of surprise … weakened for a moment your existing static patterns in such a way that the Dynamic Quality all around you shone through. It was free … The second good,the kind that made you want to recommend it to a friend,even when you had lost your own enthusiasm for it is Static Quality.

“Static Quality emerges in the wake of Dynamic Quality.”