Friday, July 22, 2005

Gumptionology: an Exegesis, Part the Zeroeth

Gumptionology is, in a few words, the art of not losing steam.

Cf.: Covey's First Habit: Be Proactive. (links to follow)

The term was coined by Robert M. Pirsig. In 1974, William Morrow and Company published his Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (hereinafter, "ZAMM"). It went through five hardcover printings in April through October of that year. In a word, it was popular.

Things that attained popularity thirty years ago tend to have a kind of patchouli patina on them.

I think that a lot of what Pirsig wrote deserves a fresh scrubbing and close examination. Some people on the 'net have taken up the cause of a Metaphysics of Quality, and though I make no claims for what they've done with it, I think Pirsig's writings themselves on the matter can be a worthy source of inspiration. This blog is probably too small a place for it. I'm not going to provide links for it, because I don't know a really head-and-shoulders-above-all place to point you to for cutting edge M0Q work. Seek and ye shall find... perhaps.

[Later: Oh, all right. Here's a Pirsig/ZAMM page that seems to be a sort of clearing house. No warranty express or implied, etc., etc.]

My focus here and now is tighter. My inspiration and this blog's name are taken from 22 pages of ZAMM: pp. 272-293 of the 34th printing of the Bantam paperback (if you don't have that edition, it's at the very end of Part III, and occupies most of Chapter 26). As time goes by, I might be excerpting much from those pages, unless/until I get a cease-and-desist from the publisher. I hope for the best, since my intentions are good. But I expect nothing. ZAMM isn't scripture, nor will this blog be a slavish toe-sucking of same. But I might keep coming back to it. It's not a bad wampeter, as wampeters go.

The main thing I want to be on about, in future, is perhaps pointed to by this fragment, taken from the very end of Pirsig's Chautauqua on gumption:

"....Some could ask, 'Well, if I get around all those gumption traps, then will I have the thing licked?'

"The answer, of course, is no, you still haven't got anything licked. You've got to live right too. It's the way you live that predisposes you to avoid the traps and see the right facts....If you're a sloppy thinker the six days of the week you aren't working on your machine, what trap avoidances, what gimmicks, can make you all of a sudden sharp on the seventh? It all goes together.

"But if you're a sloppy thinker six days a week and you really try to be sharp on the seventh, then maybe the next six days aren't going to be quite as sloppy as the preceding six. What I'm trying to come up with on these gumption traps, I guess, is shortcuts to living right."


Anonymous Justin Gardner said...

Welcome to the blogosphere! I can't wait to see what you have in store for us.

06 August, 2005 00:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's how i found ZAMM. i was hitchhiking across the sahara desert. i had stopped in tamarasset which is a small town out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by desert on all sides for hundreds of miles. heading south it is the last outpost of civilization before having to cross hundreds of miles of desert to reach the other side, ie, black/green africa.

one night at dusk, on the edge of town, on the top of an ancient low rock wall, some traveler had left his copy of ZAMM for the next hippie crossing the desert to find. and i found it and loved it.

thanks gumptionology for the reminder. good luck with your blog. just remember, "Everyone seems normal until you get to know them."

07 August, 2005 15:06  

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