Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: Chapter 3: The Puzzle of Phaedrus

Chapter 3, mysteriously gray, intriguingly narrated, introduced many questions and absolutely neglected the need for answers. Finishing chapter 3, I was left with a puzzled headache. Thwarted by the philosophy play/monologue that occupied much of the chapter, my attempts to get an early grasp of the story dwindled.

As the chapter ended, all talk of ghosts and physics and our perceptions of reality did not vanish; in fact, the final ghost story which the Narrator related to Chris in the dark and spooky motel room (as the Narrator struggled to sleep despite the persistent questioning of his puzzled son), a new name was introduced: Phaedrus.


This is the point where I hang my head in shame.

OK, maybe that’s strong. But I do hang my head, slightly, for I’ve forsaken my love, my pastime…I’ve failed to fulfill my duties as a connoisseur of literature. I hate Greek mythology. Never liked it. Anything my English teachers or Lit professors thew at me was promptly devoured and left in a pile of discarded bones. Except Greek mythology. I struggled with that. Luckily I somehow managed to shun and thoroughly avoid having to read it through most of my schooling. Consequently, I’m a complete illiterate in the field of Greek gods and whores and child killers and motherfuckers. It’s bad. Maybe it’s not too late to work on it?

In any case, when I saw that name roll off the Narrator’s lips at the end of the chapter, I exhaled a hefty “ugh.”

I’d like to gloss over the passage and pretend I never saw it. I’d like to continue reading on as the strange tale unfolds as I watch this group continue on their stormy and philosophical path. I’d enjoy nothing more than to pretend this chapter ended 2 pages earlier than it did so I could ignore this Greek hiccup.

Ain’t going to happen. Phaedrus, the mystery figure, is shaping up to be a rather predominant member of the cast in this mind exercise. Phaedrus, the painfully mentioned shadow, the predecessor to this tale of the Dakotas and motorcycles.

Phaedrus who can’t be ignored.

Now one lesson I’ve learned…authors (of serious novels) do not flippantly hand names out. Names are vital; Phaedrus…what is Pirsig’s motivation?

Well I can’t fall back on my vast knowledge of Greek mythology, so I must do what everyone else does when confronted with a puzzle in the year 2009. They search the web.

First off, let’s go directly to Wikipedia, because frankly, it’s the first selection to pop up when you do a Google search about 90% of the time. In the spirit of cutting out the middle man.

According to the Wikipedia Phaedrus entry, Phaedrus was a slave born in Macedonia in 15 B.C. Doesn’t it seem that everyone from that era was either a slave or a god?

Anyways, the entry described Phaedrus as a “fabulist.” Essentially, he translated a large portion of Aesop’s fables into Latin. That seems to be his claim to fame. Or, as written in Wikipedia:

His work shows little or no originality; he simply versified in iambic trimeters the fables current of his day under the name of “Aesop,” interspersing them with anecdotes drawn from daily life, history and mythology. He tells his fable and draws the moral with businesslike directness and simplicity.

Sheesh! Not so flattering for the old dead guy.

I browsed through the entire entry and could find nothing remarkable, or remarkable in a manner consistent with 4 people on a philosophical adventure in the lightning-riddled Great Plains states.

OK, Google time. Lots of aimless-looking leads, nothing promising. I find another Phaedrus reference, pertaining not to the fabulist, but to the title of a “dialogue” written by Plato around 370 B.C. detailing the chance meeting of Socrates and Phaedrus (not the same one) outside of Athens. Phaedrus has just return from the house of Lysias where the host has given a speech on love. Socrates is in dire need of a speech (?) and he tags along after Phaedrus panting for a recital of Lysias’ talk. I can picture it but I suspect it may not have played out like this if it had been reality.

Eventually, Socrates’ powers of persuasion seem to work and he seduces the younger Phaedrus into coughing up Lysias’ talks while the two sit under a couple of trees that nice sunny afternoon. Hmm. This is Greek, is it not?

According to Wiki’s summary, “The dialogue consists of a series of three speeches on the topic of love that serve as a metaphor for the discussion of the proper use of rhetoric. They encompass discussions of the soul, madness, divine inspiration, and the practice and mastery of an art.”

I found another reference to Phaedrus and learned that the name means “wolf.” This was on an obscure literature studies website called Introduction To Writing Studies.

So what have I taken away from all this?
Not much.

An unseen character hiding between the pages of a modern novel named after a 2000 year-old real or ficitonal person who 1) translated fables, or 2) violated copyright laws by reciting speeches given by ancient philosophers in the privacy of their own home.

And possibly, everything I said about authors and the names they choose was just a badly translated fable.

When all else fails, keep reading!

East L.A. Makeover: The Bathroom video finale (callous muder included)

Another room down. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d make it this far. Two down, six to go…I think I can do it. Quite honestly, I’ve chosen a couple of very “easy” jobs to kick off this feature. The living room closet involved nothing other than trashing and removing enormous amounts of…stuff. The bathroom was a little more involved. It required some shopping and handiwork. It required borrowed tools, for chrissakes. Nevertheless, it was not the most monumental job.

That said, the bathroom is now complete. It is now as orderly and inviting as a bathroom (mine) can possibly be. I may pretty it up with scents and/or other weird unmanly stuff, but I don’t want to prolong the ordeal of Stage 2 any longer than it needs to. On that note, here you go!

(Special note for all the PETA members and sympathizers:  I normally don’t revel in the murder of living creatures.  The only insects I dispose of are cockroaches, ants and flies.   Everything else is either ignored or removed, in a humane manner, from the premises.  And all “disposals” are usually completed in a more austere and ceremonial manner than what appears in this video.  So chill.)

The disharmony of tax time

It’s no wonder modern man is so damned imbalanced!

And yes, I will admit, I have had a “balance” fixation of late.

Balance is very preoccupying to me right now. Balance in our lives. Harmonious existence; all facets of our scattered lives summing up to a big fat zero. That is true harmony. If you could quantify and assign value to all the bullshit that is your life and you were to punch each and every figure into an Excel sheet you called “my life.xls” and hit that stupid Greek symbol to add all the numbers together (I don’t know what it’s called so I’m conveniently glossing over the name) how close would your number be to a perfectly and impeccably harmonious zero?

Reminds me of tax time. You hear so many people anxious to get money back from the government. They want lots of it back! They look at it as a gift. Duh. How could it be a gift if it was yours to begin with? Tell me? They are so brainwashed by the culture of stupidity that they actually think some stupid bureaucratic entity is giving them a gift by returning their money which they stupidly floated the Fed for a year so it could make wads of interest off it in order to pay for the oligarchical wars it conducts in hot, dusty countries. Come April, you should be as close to zero as possible when the accountant does your taxes. The more money you “get back” the more money it means you let your lovely Federal government use; the more you pay, the more you let yourself use throughout the year in order to get your nails done or buy beer, money which essentially was not yours and and you had no right spending. Instead of using Visa or MasterCard, you happily used the U.S. Federal government as your lender. And they don’t have a cashback or rewards programs. Good move Sherlock.

Tell me. Where’s the balance?

Xboxicide goes Live with a Halo match on a Friday night

It was bound to happen eventually.

How much longer could I continue this “Xboxicide” bit up without venturing out into the wild world of live play?

Xbox pretty much brought the concept to the fore amongst popular game consoles and even now it has the market cornered when it comes to live play. Throw in a headset and Xbox Live offers much more than just games…you can form online parties and watch movies together (from the online version of Netflix) or just shoot the breeze about things which young geeks like to talk about…all with complete strangers, all connected by this strange little hard drive game-playing gadget that is the pathway into an online game world, courtesy of Microsoft.

Once you’ve played a round of competitive, lively Live play, everything else just doesn’t seem as intriguing. Playing local (not Live, against the game disk or other people in your living room) doesn’t seem to offer the same sense of pizazz. I could be mistaken about that…I don’t claim to be the king of Xbox or anything approaching “expert” level…I suppose the true gamer, the hard core type, finds satisfaction in any type of play environment.

So last Friday, —- and I squared off not against each other, but against any of the nameless thousands who populate the Xbox Live sphere on a Friday night. We played Halo 3, arguably one of the best Live games to choose from. Great fun ensued (14 minutes of it)!

Part 1:

Part 2, the continuation and conclusion of this debacle, will be posted later. And here it is, the thrilling conclusion:

My 3 cents, for what it’s worth…

This morning while reconciling my bank account, I discovered I was $0.03 off…meaning I had somehow managed to make it appear I had 3 extra pennies which the bank didn’t show. Horrors.

It reminded me of a period of time about 5 years ago, right after I was divorced and moved out on my own, when I discovered a $0.23 difference.

Perhaps preoccupied with the monumental task of getting my life in order and/or too much partying and debauchery, I let it slide. For a long time. Occasionally I would revisit my account and spot the 23 cent difference, shrug it off, pretend it was nothing. And it was…nothing. If 23 cents can make or break you, I think you have some serious problems which transcend the perfect and delightful fulfillment of a balanced checkbook. Once in a while I would try to backtrack and deconstruct my checking account…get to the bottom of those 23 cents. Put it to bed once and for all. But I never could because as time dragged on and I incurred new charges and expenditures, that 23 cent snafu became buried deeper and deeper in the historical salt mine of my checking account. If I had nipped it in the bud it would have been simple to remedy. Months later it had become a Sisyphean task that was proving unworthwhile of my precious drinking time. My life was a chaotic mess.

Those 23 cents: unimportant, insignificant. A low-grade bothersome disjunction in my life. But it was bothersome, for I have not forgotten it. Apparently…considering it burst back into my mind this morning as I contemplated today’s 3 cent dichotomy.

This is an important lesson to consider…even the smallest inconsistencies within one’s life, if allowed to fester, disrupt the harmony of a peaceful existence. That 23 cent difference, laughable on paper, incurred 500% interest, compounded daily, in terms of emotional and intellectual drain upon my life. And I didn’t realize it. In denial and blind, I looked past the difference and didn’t allow myself to experience the self-awareness that by allowing the difference to continue unabated, I was signaling the Gods of Peace that I was not ready for their gift.

Many times, the attainment of a goal supersedes the path itself. If you spend too much time examining your path and agonizing over which forks to take, which rocks and holes to avoid, you’ll never reach your destination. So when I made the decision that my goal was more important than a trifling 23 cents, I merely wrote it off. I entered an offsetting line and pulverized that 23 cents into non-existence once and for all! And moved on with my life.

This morning, I tracked down the 3 cents immediately and now I’m balanced. The quest to avoid imbalance…don’t let it become lost in the bustle of daily maintenance.