Friday, February 13, 2009


I love the book "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance" because so many of the ideas put forth in the book have made an impact on me and they continue to influence my life. My favorite passage from the book is as follows:

"What moves the Greek warrior to deeds of heroism," Kitto comments, "is not a sense of duty as we understand it...duty towards others: it is rather duty towards himself. He strives after that which we translate `virtue' but is in Greek areté, `excellence' -- we shall have much to say about areté. It runs through Greek life."

Thus the hero of the Odyssey is a great fighter, a wily schemer, a ready speaker, a man of stout heart and broad wisdom who knows that he must endure without too much complaining what the gods send; and he can both build and sail a boat, drive a furrow as straight as anyone, beat a young braggart at throwing the discus, challenge the Pheacian youthat boxing, wrestling or running; flay, skin, cut up and cook an ox, and be moved to tears by a song. He is in fact an excellent all-rounder; he has surpassing areté.

Areté implies a respect for the wholeness or oneness of life, and a consequent dislike of specialization. It implies a contempt for efficiency...or rather a much higher idea of efficiency, an efficiency which exists not in one department of life but in life itself."

I read this at a time when I was at crossroads in my life. I was to make important decisions on my interests, career, future plans etc etc. I was expected to choose my area of expertise and work on it like almost everyone else of my age. The idea that I need to excel not at one or two things that will keep me going, but all things life made a huge impact on my life. I started to give my job my everything for the time that I was in office. I tried my best to excel at interpersonal skills and in the process established many relationships that have added a lot of excitement to my life. I joined a gym to be physically fit and took it to the next level with routine participation in many sporting events in addition to the gym. I realized the importance of lifelong learning and made a very conscious effort to keep myself informed of and interested in things I did not know anything about. I am a much better person today for each of these decisions.

Read the book, it is amazing.