Some Excerpts from Pirsig

Not what the book “is about.” Merely some of the many things that it is.

The school was what could euphemistically be called a “teaching college.” At a teaching college you teach and you teach and you teach with no time for research, no time for contemplation, no time for participation in outside affairs. Just teach and teach and teach until your mind grows dull and your creativity vanishes and you become an automaton saying the same dull things over and over to endless waves of innocent students who cannot understand why you are so dull, lose respect and fan this disrespect out into the community, The reason you teach and you teach and you teach is that this is a very clever way of running a college on the cheap while giving a false appearance of genuine education. (140)

When you’ve got a Chautauqua in your head, it’s extremely hard not to inflict it on innocent people. (161)

[on teaching writing…] A student would always ask how the rule would apply in a certain special circumstance. Phaedrus would then have the choice of trying to fake through a made-up explanation of how it worked, or follow the selfless route and say what he really thought. And what he really thought was that the rule was pasted on to the writing after the writing was all done. It was post hoc, after the fact, instead of prior to the fact. And he became convinced that all the writers the students were supposed to mimic wrote without rules, putting down whatever sounded right, then going back to see if it still sounded right and changing it if it didn’t. There were some who apparently wrote with calculating premeditation because that’s the way their product looked. But that seemed to him to be a very poor way to look. It had a certain syrup, as Gertude Stein once said, but it didn’t pour. But how’re you to teach something that isn’t premeditated? (170)

Quality… you know what it is, yet you don’t know what it is. But that’s self-contradictory. But some things are better than others, that is, they have more quality. But when you try to say what the quality is, apart from, the things that have it, it all goes poof! There’s nothing to talk about. But if you can’t say what Quality is, how do you know what it is, or how do you know that it even exists? If no one knows what it is, then for all practical purposes it doesn’t exist at all. But for all practical purposes it really does exist. What else are the grades based on? Why else would people pay fortunes for some things and throw others in the trash pile? Obviously some things are better than others… but what’s the “betterness”? (178)

It’s nice to start journeys pleasantly, even when you know they won’t end that way. (184)

I think metaphysics is good if it improves everyday life; otherwise forget it.
(240)

…it’s the student’s choice of Quality that defines him. People differ about Quality, not because Quality is different, but because people are different in terms of experiences. (244)

…getting stuck is the commonest trouble of all… your mind gets stuck when you’re trying to do too many things at once. What you have to do is try not to force words to come. That just gets you more stuck. (271)

Traditional scientific method has always been at the very best, 20-20 hindsight. It’s good for seeing where you’ve been. it’s good for testing the truth of what you think you know, but it can’t tell you where you ought to go, unless where you ought to go is a continuation of where you were going in the past. Creativity, originality, inventiveness, intuition, imagination—”unstuckness,” in other words—are completely outside its domain. (273)

The solutions all are simple—after you have arrived at them. But they’re simple only when you know already what they are. (281)