“But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.” ― Robert M. Pirsig,
My favorite book read during 2015 was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (an appropriate title for a book read on our journey through Asia on motorbike, however unrelated it may actually be). Much of the book contains philosophical discussions surrounding rational thought and the essence of quality, often utilizing a motorcycle journey and the maintenance work required as a physical metaphor for the deeper ideas being explored. One such idea is the deconstruction of traditional rationality, a way of thinking, or "ideas on living" as I prefer to call them. By design, I hoped our time traveling the world would facilitate this deconstruction of my own rationality as the quote above suggests; that I might not merely change my surroundings and the external systems of my life (ie: job, house, economic status, community), but instead the very ideas composing the framework upon which I build and fortify ideas on living, leading to new pathways of thought, action, and external systems. My ideas on living prior to our trip felt too narrow, a streamlined path of social dogma that did not align to what I perceived, or perhaps desired, to be true. I began to search for a broader spectrum in which proper living may be examined and exampled. In order to lead a life of internal and external satisfaction, I felt I must refine my ideas on what satisfaction is and not just what it takes to design and acquire my own version of an American dream. Thus, I travel not to simply to see the world, but to allow the world to change the way I see.
And so I mindfully set out on our trip considering these particular questions:
What does American society say is true and proper living? How does it differ from the truths of the broader world?
Which pieces of my thinking are functions of my upbringing, community, work experience, religion, and nationality and are there larger truths in the hierarchy of living that I may have missed prior to gaining a broader view of the world?
Which of my preconceived ideas on living are faulty, built upon poor foundations or constructed with inadequate materials to withstand the test of time?
Setting forth to find answers (or at least give these thoughts their fair respective attention), much of my time in Asia was spent in reflection, in simplifying my ideas of living, and contemplating the more foundational aspects of my life. I describe my experience in Asia as a metaphorical "stripping down" of essential beliefs, both of myself and the world around me. It was a formative trip, but perhaps more personal in nature, as I rarely felt compelled to share my deeper insights and instead spent most of my energy directed towards my marriage, our travel experiences, and inward thought. Distancing myself from my pre-travels routine and responsibilities, I can look back with more clarity and understand the patterns, choices, and motivations that manifested into a life I was rather unsatisfied and unfulfilled in. With this clarity, I am better able to see myself--faults, vulnerabilities, and ugly spots--in better focus. As uncomfortable a place as that is, it is the right place to be for now, I think. Overall, Asia was a personally healing and challenging time, stripping me down to a more basic, simplified, and raw template of myself (for better or worse). I am excited to begin the process of rebuilding and fortifying my ideas on living.
I strongly feel that Europe (largely due to our time in the campervan) will allow space for fresh creativity to be released and for deeper material to be read, created, discussed, contemplated, and shared. While Asia was a season of relaxation and (ironically) zen living, Europe will hopefully be a season of increased growth, depth, insights, creativity, and cultivation. I know my faith, marriage, and education will be fortified and increased and I hope to also gain ground in my career pursuits including language learning (currently French) and perhaps writing an eBook about Fishing in Alaska. Most importantly, I think pieces of my ideas on living will begin to come back together, as a house deconstructed, remodeled, and rebuilt. As anyone who knows me well could tell you, I love construction projects. I have a particular fondness for demo, rough-in, and structual work, and sometime get less patient in the fine details of finish and decorating work. If Asia was the tearing down of rationality to the studs, I think Europe will be a season of drywalling, texturing, plumbing, and perhaps the beginning of painting and finish work, albeit allowing for plenty more over the years.
Pirsig also writes, "The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there... Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce right thoughts. Right thoughts produce right actions and right actions produce work which will be a material reflection for others to see of the serenity at the center of it all.”
This perhaps, embodies the goal, the quality, and the Truth that I am so desperately seeking out. In a broken, confusing, loud, and angry world, how can I begin with myself--my ideas, my mind, my heart, my hands--and inspire others to consider their own ideas on living, manifesting in a serenity and beauty that speaks to the Truth at the center of it all?
Here's to the journey: For this pursuit of deeper Truth, I travel. ONWARD.