Friday, June 22, 2012

ZAMM (part 6) - Sloth, or just not caring ...

Heard of the Seven Deadly Sins?

Pope St. Gregory I ("the Great") in the 6th century A.D is credited for coming up with this list of vices, which all good Christians are to avoid - all bad stuff:

wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.
(reference: The Seven Deadly Sins)

On the other hand, the flip side are the Seven Virtues:

faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, virtue, prudence, temperance.
(reference: The Seven Virtues)

But Robert Pirsig's book - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZAMM), in my opinion, focuses much of his Chautauqua on one of these seven deadly sins ...


Imagines come to my mind of laziness and sluggishness - as so illustrated by the sluggard in the garden scene above. Certainly, that is part of it. But there is more to it than that. (reference: The Seven Deadly Sins - Sloth)

The root of the word for sloth is ...


It literally means - not caring. (reference: acedias - Memidex dictionary/thesaurus)

And caring - or the lack of it - is a major thread in ZAMM.

You call this Motorcycle Maintenance?

In one Chautauqua, the author describes his unpleasant experience dealing with a bad mechanic. Instead of fixing the author's motorcycle, the mechanic made its condition worse than ever. What went so wrong in this process? Pirsig had quite a bit to say about that.

The trinities - mind, body, spirit - science, art, religion - are all engaged and interconnected when pursuing excellence in any craft or skill. Mechanics, for example, must be aware of the thousands of technical facts out there about motorcycles, say. The art is sorting out which facts are relevant to the solve the problem at hand. And the art of gumption comes into play while troubleshooting and identifying the root cause of the problem and knowing how to fix it.

But what divides a good mechanic from a bad one?

This divide comes in the spiritual dimension, which can be summed in one word ...


In my opinion, the stories told in ZAMM are a kulturbarer (the Swedish word translated "culture bearer") because of the epidemic of not caring that has infected our modern society. Not caring manifests itself in many ways, and below is just a sampling of what some may have encountered.

* Poor Workmanship

Many new houses - perhaps you have bought one of these lately - have a veneer of quality. But a closer look exposes the thinness of this veneer as it masks the degraded craftsmanship of the building ... like the planners and contractors just did not care when they put the house together.

Below is a clip of the condo owners' lament over this former Olympic village - rife with examples of not caring.

These condos are not the exception of poor construction, but unfortunately the rule these days. And poor workmanship is a manifestation of sloth.

* Corporate America

Scott Adams pokes fun at the dysfunction of the corporate world in his comic strip - Dilbert. The strip resonates with so many because the jokes and the punchlines have so much truth in them.

And this clips shows it.

Apathy is another manifestation of sloth. And it trickles down from management, infects the workers, and outputs its degraded end products to the customer, who often complain of its poor workmanship (as in the first clip above).

* Lonely People

And there can be a psychological cost of not caring - depression. One of the consequences of depression is loneliness. And loneliness seems so prevalent in modern society. The Beatles captured this malady in Eleanor Rigby.

Below is the song with images of this lonely human condition:

All the lonely people - where do they all come from?

Lonely people come from not caring:
* Not caring can come from not being willing to reach out to lonely people.
* Not caring can come from the lonely people not being willing to be reached by others.

Sloth, either from the sufferer or the enabler, can cause or exasperate loneliness, depression ... and the consequences can be so deadly.

ZAMM gets it right as it points to the spiritual root cause of many of the maladies in our culture ...

Just not caring

But is there a cure for this malady?

Yes, it's opposite - caring

To find caring ....

Go back to the garden

The first Adam's job was gardening, working in the garden and caring for it.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Genesis 2:15 (NIV)

This caring can be extended to all of God's creation, especially to fellow human beings.

Caring was the first job given to the human race.

The last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, went back to the garden, to the original purpose of humans - to care for all of God's creation. In his parables, Jesus talked about gardening and caring in various parables and teachings: sowing in the field, workers in the vineyards, the diligence of servants, and most of all how God cares for people as Jesus had said in these words ...

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:29-31 (NIV)

Like the difference between the a good and bad mechanic is caring, the difference between the first and the last Adam is ...

Caring to the nth degree

And we all have this promise from the last Adam (Jesus), especially when we feel no one cares:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

Sloth is deadly.

But caring brings meaning to life and is the balm for this malady of sloth that has infected us all.

Question: Any stories of caring/not caring you would like to share?


Previous articles in the ZAMM series:

ZAMM (part 1) - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (2011)

ZAMM (part 2) - Journey through Life (2011)

ZAMM (part 3) - Chautauqua, then and now (2011)

ZAMM (part 4) - Ghosts (2011)

ZAMM (part 5) - Sheldon vs Penny (2012)


Photos from: sloth
Wikipedia Commons: Gardening

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