On Caring Deeply

I need a spiritual cleansing. We all do. Sometimes, the years wear on us in ways that are hard to account. Bitterness creeps into our soul. Our normal remedies — walks, friends, water, good music, worthwhile projects — these old remedies don’t work well enough. 

I turn to a long-forgotten project. Writing what’s in my heart. Freely. With some beauty. With a child’s passion. 

“The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.” ― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values 

It’s a beautiful idea. I’d love to believe it’s true. I do think self-healing can be heroic in the right context. I also believe that it can be a form of escapism. We can self-help ourselves to oblivion while the world burns. Self-help can be heroic or an advanced form of cowardice. I’m agnostic on this subject. 

“To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.” ― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance 

I remember clearly the stage of mind I was in when I first read Pirsig’s book. I was deeply troubled. It was spring in Sendai and the world seemed ripe for renewal. I was working on the second draft of a novel. I felt myself getting older, but also becoming more content with myself even as my opinion of the world grew coarse. 

Reading this book felt to me a thing of pure beauty. I was reading something honest, and I was becoming more honest with myself about my own limitations and the beauty of a minimal lifestyle. 

“When you want to hurry something, that means you no longer care about it and want to get on to other things.” — Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance 

I didn’t hurry with this book. I read it twice. I talked about it with a friend. There was no violent striving. My heart felt damaged but alive. I would survive a little bit longer on the side of the mountain, no idea whether I was going up or down. 

There was no hurry in my heart, so I must have cared deeply. 


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