“The way to solve the conflict between human values and technological needs is not to run away from technology. That’s impossible. The way to resolve the conflict is to break down the barriers of dualistic thought that prevent a real understanding of what technology is — not an exploitation of nature, but a fusion of nature and the human spirit into a new kind of creation that transcends both. When this transcendence occurs in such events as the first airplane flight across the ocean or the first footstep on the moon, a kind of public recognition of the transcendent nature of technology occurs. But this transcendence should also occur at the individual level, on a personal basis, in one’s own life, in a less dramatic way.”
— Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
“I’ve always been pushing that envelope. I want to risk hitting my head on the ceiling of my talent. I want to really test it out and say: O.K., you’re not that good. You just reached the level here. I don’t ever want to fail, but I want to risk failure every time out of the gate.”

Learn by doing

Reading a little this morning about monozukuri, a Japanese principle of craftsmanship [1], and this passage stood out to me:

No one sits down and teaches an apprentice all the techniques he needs to become a master. He starts out as a minarai, and learns by watching. First, he is given menial jobs around the workshop. After a time, if someone calls in sick, he may get the chance to do a trivial part of the process. Later he may purchase his own tools and try things out in his spare time. He gradually gains more responsibility. At no time does the master specifically “teach” him anything. It is up to the apprentice to “steal the art,” to figure out for himself what the master is doing to get the right results. Over time, the apprentice develops a technique like the masters but also all his own.

Amidst all the talk of online education reshaping the role of traditional colleges, one of the things I’m most excited about is a growing re-emphasis of the value of learning by doing. When it comes to the pursuit of true excellence in craft, I think there’s no replacement for the apprenticeship model of old. Learning something deeply enough to call your work craft is a process driven by repetition, attention to detail, and trial & error.

[1] From what I could gather, it looks like there’s some controversy about the use of this word— ideally, monozukuri represents a devotion to making great things, excellence in craftsmanship, but the term seems to have been bastardized and adopted by the Japanese manufacturing industry to describe their processes.

Be Mindful

Leaving this as a reminder to myself:

If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future - and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life. 

- Thich Nhat Hanh

“Which is more important: to attain enlightenment, or to attain enlightenment before you attain enlightenment; to make a million dollars, or to enjoy your life in your effort, little by little, even though it is impossible to make that million; to be successful, or to find some meaning in your effort to be successful? If you do not know the answer, you will not even be able to practice zazen; if you do know, you will have found the true treasure of life.”