Saturday, March 19, 2005

Zen and the Art of Maintenance Shed-Building

One of my favorite books is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I read somewhere that Robert Redford bought rights to the script in order to make the motion picture adaptation of the book years ago, but I don't see how the book could ever be made into a movie and still do it justice. Even as great a filmmaker as Redford is, I think that making this particular book into a movie of quality would be arduous, if not impossible. (Not that I'm some kind of Coppola or Kubrick; just a guy with an opinion about a paperback).

ZATAOMM's discussion of "Quality," impinges on so many things I think about during the day. My copy of ZATAOMM is well-thumbed precisely because I constantly consider the everyday concreteness and evasiveness of quality in life. Here's a couple of quotes from the book:
If you want to build a factory, or fix a motorcycle, or set a nation right without getting stuck, then classical, structured dualistic subject-object knowledge, although necessary, isn't enough. You have to have some feeling for the quality to work. You have to have a sense of what's good [p. 255].
You point to something as having quality and the quality goes away. Quality is something you see out of the corner of your eye [p. 308].
I started building a storage shed this week. My mind's eye is too many times focused on getting the plans perfect rather than building something with quality. The plans give me the structured subject-object knowledge of the shed, but scrutiny of the plans of the final project require more than simply soaking up technical knowledge and spitting out widgets. It requires mulling and brooding over the work. When I do that, I not only work on the shed, but the shed works on me, too.

The shed won't be perfectly level. I hope that it nonetheless has a good level. I am trying to build something that has utility when I need to store and maintain equipment. However, I am trying to build something more than a building that functions perfectly. I do not want it to fall down (it will be interesting to see if it even stands, given than it is my first attempt to build a proper structure). But I do want to do more than just stand it up and nail it in place. I want to look at it, even if indirectly, as it goes up and I want to feel some of the good of crafting it.

In keeping with how evasive "Quality" can be, I took a picture of the drainage rocks, landscaping blocks and finished foundation at night. If there's a way to take a photograph so that it looks like something you see out of the corner of your eye, I certainly do not know how to snap it. I concluded that a picture partially shrouded by the night would come close to peripheral sight.

Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello
It's a relatively level floor. I think I have glimpsed quality, but I continue to look for it, without really staring it down.

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