Daily Posts

Reconciling the classics and the romantics

Have you ever reveled in the joy of being able to solve a particularly tough math problem? Or looked forward to being able to understand exactly how your computer works?

Or do you prefer to stay unaware and blissful about these things? Technology to you is ‘that other thing’ which runs in the background and isn’t in any way related to you. Do you prefer to let others tackle your problems, preferring instead to devote your time in reading poetry, talking to people and other more humane arts?

Well, 99% of us fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. There are times when we prefer knowing exactly how something works (and feeling good when clarity finally arrives) and there are times when we prefer to remain unaware. In Zen and the Art of Motorcylce Maintainance, Robert M Pirsig refers to these two modes as the classic (aka scientific/rational) mode and the romantic (aka poetic/emotional) mode.

The book is a good one and recounts the authors efforts at reconciling the two modes. Reconcile because according to him, inside most of us these modes are at war and only one is actually winning. As a result, each of us has an inclination towards a particular mode. This inclination dictates our nature, choice of profession, attitude etc.

This inclination also causes subtle conflicts between the individuals and even societies at large. Romantics view the classics as cold, unemotional and mechanical. Classics view romantics as shallow, dumb and emotional. Things often come to a head when two partners are of different types.

To resolve these conflicts, Robert advices the two types to look at things from each others perspectives. Classics should read poetry and/or indulge in other humane aspects to gain an appreciation for the romantic’s point of view. Romantics need to overcome their hesitation about technology and science and should try to learn some of the underlying mechanics behind technologies.

Most important of all, the two sides should respect each others views and shouldn’t pass hasty judgements. After all, it is only by combining the two halves that we can truly appreciate nature and the things around us.

Another good read : The beauty of a flower

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