Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into ValuesI’m about halfway through re-reading Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and I want to give you another (forgive me, but long) excerpt from page 160-161 (1976 Corgi edition) where the main character – ex-Phaedrus – continues talking about the assembly instructions of a rotisserie and how the instructions relate to one’s passion for the work they are doing:

“-Technology presumes there’s just one right way to do things and there never is. And when you presume there’s just one right way to do things, of course the instructions begin and end with the rotisserie. But if you have to choose among an infinite number of ways to put it together then the relation of the machine and you to the rest of the world, has to be considered, because the selection from among many choices, the art of the work is just as dependent upon your own mind and spirit as it is upon the material of the machine. That’s why you need the peace of mind.

“Actually, this idea isn’t so strange,” I continue. “Sometime look at a novice workman or a bad workman and compare his expression with that of a craftsman whose work you know is excellent and you’ll see the difference. The craftsman isn’t ever following a single line of instruction. He’s making decisions as he goes along. For that reason he’ll be absorbed and attentive to what he’s doing even though he doesn’t deliberately contrive this. His motions and the machine are in a kind of harmony. He isn’t following any set of written instructions because the nature of the material at hand determines his thoughts and motions, which simultaneously change the nature of the material at hand. The material and his thoughts are changing together in a progression of changes until his mind’s at rest at the same time the material’s right.”

“Sounds like art,” the instructor says.

I can’t help but see this theory applying to Christians in the world today. Are we approaching our Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) using a one-right-way instruction manual that presents a ’cause-and-effect’ method for living the Christian life? Are we actually divorced from the hands-on work that Jesus himself outlined for us? I fear this may be the case, and also may be a contributor to the general ‘novice-workman’ sense of detachment from our work.

I think now is the time for some of us to begin focusing on lateral-thinking – acknowledging the former and embracing new ideas, not trends, but ideas. The Christian way to do this may be a simple act of putting the Holy Spirit’s leading of our life as our main source of influence. Though preaching and teaching is a clearly biblical use of gifts from God, we are told that our true teacher is the anointing that remains in us – The Spirit himself (1 John 2:27). And we are primarily responsible to turn our attention to Him. Our motions are how we live our lives, and our machine is the world we live in. Let’s find harmony between them and not rely on a cause and effect mentality that isn’t found in The Way.