“Coltrane was always concerned with blazing ahead, one popular line of reasoning goes; he didn’t place much value into what he left behind him.”
Ben Ratliff

Coltrane - The Story of a Sound

Static Quality – Stuff of Life


Before Dynamic Quality

Last time I wrote about quality I focused on Dynamic Quality. This time I want to focus on Static Quality. I often catch myself favoring Dynamic Quality over Static Quality – and I know this to be a misapprehension. I cherish moments in which I experience Dynamic Quality – they are a precious experience to me. But then my dogmatic mind kicks in and instantly identifies that because Dynamic is good, static must be bad. This it the nature of my mind, but it is wrong. Static Quality is everything that leads to and away from Dynamic quality. Static is the ordinary routine of life – it is where I spend most of life, and it is what paves the way for me to encounter  Dynamic.

So I think Static Quality deserves a bit more attention. It seems that Robert Pirsig did too. His second book Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals is dedicated almost entirely to this subject. Though I found it to be less inspiring then “Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, I have found in it a perspective that supports me in life. As I write these words I realized that indeed “Zen…” is an inspiring book that often comes to mind in creative context (Dynamic Quality) while “Lila” is a more intellectual book that comes to mind in dealing with day-to-day life (Static Quality).

Static Quality

This article was born when a visual image came to me. I hope it turns out to be an effective means of communication. This image starts with a blank canvas where static & dynamic quality meet and coexist. It may seem kind of empty – but actually for me it contains a core idea: all of life, existence & perception is a result of a meeting between static quality and dynamic quality.


This meeting of qualities gave birth to inorganic patterns of quality. This feels to me very close to a core concept in Samkhya Vedic Philosophy – which claims that existence is a meeting of two forces (qualities?) – consciousness (Purusha) and matter (Prakriti).


If I recall correctly Pirsig speaks highly of carbon and the choices it made (and continues to make). It seems that carbon felt it would be a good idea to continue to evolve into organic patterns – living cells and tissues. We should be grateful for this choice – these bodies in which we reside are a result of the choices carbon made when it encountered dynamic quality.


These biological patterns (you, me and your average human being and a huge diversity of forms of life) started to make their way in life and realized it would be a great idea to group together and face dynamic quality in packs instead of individually. And so social patterns emerged.


Our lives are flooded by social patterns – family, friends, work, hobbies, religion, neighborhoods, cities, countries, laws… it really is an endless list. Many of these patters are buried so deep inside us that we never notice their existence. It seems that social patterns were indeed a great choice since they gave birth & life to another  set of patterns – ideas – patterns of intellect.


An Interplay of Patterns of Quality

Robin Williams claims that “God gave men a brain and a penis but only enough blood to operate one of them at a time”. Many truths are bundled into this hillarious observation. We are constanly at war.

Patterns are co-dependent and co-exist. I have great ideas because there is time and space for me to have them. I have time because of social patterns that do a lot for me – so I don’t need to put up a shelter and go hunting every day.

Patterns are at war. When I am ill biological patterns take over and make sure I do what they need me to do to get better (!). Concentration and focus become fuzzy and primitive patterns can take over – resting & eating.  It would take tremendous effort (battle!) on my part to reassert social and intellectual patterns when biology is in play.

Patterns are vicious. Primitive patterns inhibit evolved patterns. Evolved patterns attack primitive patterns on which they depend to achieve freedom to continue and evolve. Revolutionary intellectual patterns are enemies to the very social patterns in which they grew. Society has very little tolerance for ideas of change and will usually work against them. Ideas of change struggle with existing social patterns – initially on the brink of survival and sometimes to sustain change. Struggle has been and continues to be a theme in my life.

Static patterns are doing their best. One thing patterns have in common is that they are all doing their best – and so they feel and believe that way. When I have a great idea my intellectual patterns are sure they know best (and can be rather vicious if they encounter other intellectual patterns that don’t agree).

Dynamic is better. Yet another thing patterns share is that they are all facing dynamic quality. Better is always just around the corner, out of reach and unknown. Better is something that comes at me, not something I can go to. I can be open to it and realize when it visits me or I can be dull and miss it even when it looks me in the eye. I noticed that the phrase “Dynamic is better” stimulates my mind into action and my mind attacks it – takes it apart, explains it and argues it. When this happens I try to remind myself that “Dynamic is better” is not an idea – it is a truth I choose to embrace. My minds reaction to this – coming to life with energy and movement – supports my choice. It is not a matter of rational or understanding it is a choice of faith.

Applied Quality

Dynamic quality is a source of inspiration for me. It is not “applicable” to anything – any attempt to apply it mindfully is futile – everything slips off it. I have faith in Dynamic Quality. My experience is that  it comes to me when I least expect it. The path to it is approached and paved with surrender, patience, clarity and intent. It is a sweet experience.

Static Patterns are the stuff of life. In my short indulgence of philosophic studies I recall (1) a criteria – that a system of philosophy needs to be available and applicable by non-philosophers;  (2) that the systems of philosophy that were then placed before me lacked inspiration and definitely lacked applicability.

Pirsig’s philosophy is, in my mind special because (1) it has traveled down the academic road and has evolved into a system of philosophy known as Metaphysics of Quality and (2) is a useful tool in facing many issues that appear before me and occupy my mind. I have a recurring experience of trying to work my way through a topic of interest to me, getting lost and then recalling the ideas of Static Quality which then show me a simple, sensible and interesting path.

Closing Words


I take comfort in the development of this visual image because of the empty space that remains where Dynamic Quality exists.

This entry was posted in Expanding, Featured, inside, Quality, Yoga. You are welcome to add your comment

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