Sometimes you reach a fork in the road and the way forward is unclear. At these crossroads, we need to retreat to the small still center of our being and allow ourselves to be guided.
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference - poet Robert Frost
Whoa, Mr. Frost, I'm calling bullshit on this prevalent fork metaphor: It would be oh so easy if there were actually forks in the road.
And signposts – ah, a pure blessing. (Or so I think.) But Truth is a pathless land, said J. Krishnamurti.
Traveler, there is no path
paths are made by walking. - poet Antonio Machado
What if "stuckness" itself - not certain signposts - were the pure blessing? What a radical,grand mind-bending thought that is.
More B.S., I thought Monday. (I wrote almost every word of this post Monday but could not hit "publish" button.) I am desperate enough to listen attentively to new suggestions however.
And then I realized how true these words were - all my personal progress has occurred in the eye of a blurring stuckness storm. The act of carefully typing in the passage helped to have the words sink in. And as I mentioned in the last post, contemplating this passage dislodged a logjam in an ancient mental groove in my stubborn brain and ideas just flowed and flowed with ease.
Here author Robert Pirsig is confounded by a motorcycle repair problem: a screw sticking on the side cover assembly (never mind, it's NOT about motorcycles). He skims the motorcycle manual - nada. And thus starts his soliloquy on stuckness. The last three paragraphs are priceless. (BTW, I believe Pirsig uses Quality for "inspiration from Source.")
You're stuck. Stopped. Terminated. It's absolutely stopped you from fixing the motorcycle.
This isn't a rare scene in science or technology. This is the commonest scene of all. Just plain stuck...
This book is no good to you now. Neither is scientific reason. You don't need any scientific experiments to find out what's wrong. It's obvious what's wrong. What you need is a hypothesis for how you are going to get that slotless screw out of there and scientific method doesn't provide any of these hypotheses. It operates only after they're around.
This is the zero moment of consciousness. Stuck. No answer. Honked. Kaput. It's a miserable experience emotionally. You're losing time. You're incompetent. You don't know what you are doing. You should be ashamed of yourself. You should take the machine to a real mechanic who knows how to figure these things out.
It's normal at this point for the fear-anger syndrome to take over and make you want to hammer on that side plate with a chisel, to pound it off with a sledge if necessary. You think about it, and the more you think about it the more you're inclined to take the whole machine to a high bridge and drop it off. It's just outrageous that a tiny little slot of a screw can defeat you so totally.
What you're up against is the great unknown, the void of all Western thought. You need some ideas, some hypotheses. Traditional scientific method, unfortunately, has never quite gotten around to say exactly where to pick up more of these hypotheses. Traditional scientific method has always been, at the very best, 20-20 hindsight. It's what you think you know, but it can't tell you where you ought to go, unless where you ought to go is a continuation of where you were going in the past. Creativity, originality, inventiveness, intuition, imagination -- "unstuckness" in other words - are completely outside its domain...
Let's consider a reevaluation of the situation in which we assume that the stuckness now occurring, the zero of consciousness, isn't the worst of all possible situations, but the best possible situation you could be in. [Hmmm....] After all, it's exactly this stuckness that Zen Buddhists go to so much trouble to induce; through koans, deep breathing, sitting still and the like. Your mind is empty, you have a "hollow-flexible" attitude of "beginner's mind." You're right at the front end of the train of knowledge, at the track of reality itself. Consider, for a change, that this is a moment to be not feared but cultivated. If your mind is truly, profoundly stuck, then you may be much better off than when it was loaded full of ideas.
The solution to the problem often at first seems unimportant or undesirable, but the state of stuckness allows it, in time, to assume its true importance. It seemed small because your previous rigid evaluation which led to the stuckness made it small. But now consider the fact that no matter how hard you try to hang on to it, this stuckness is bound to disappear. Your mind will naturally and freely move toward a solution. Unless you are a real master at staying stuck you can't prevent this. The fear of stuckness is needless because the longer you stay stuck the more you see the Quality-reality that gets you unstuck every time. What's really been getting you stuck is the running from the stuckness through the cars of your train oof knowledge looking for a solution that is out in front of the train.
Stuckness shouldn't be avoided. It's the psychic predecessor of all real understanding. An egoless acceptance of stuckness is a key to an understanding of Quality, in mechanical work as in other endeavors. It's this understanding of Quality as revealed by stuckness which so often makes self-taught mechanics so superior to institute-trained men who have learned how to handle everything except a new situation. - Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Chapter 24)