Inspiring books...

I've started a list of some of my all-time favorite books (check the right-most column of this page) with two books that were recommended to me many years ago by my dear friend Bart de Greef:
  • "Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life", by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an inquiry into values", by Robert M. Pirsig
I've read "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" twice (so far), in 1988 and again in 1998. I've established a goal to read it at least once every 10 years. It's 2008, which means I'm due for a third tour of this great book, from which I extracted this inspiring (and apropos) piece:

University versus university

The real University is not a material object. It is not a group of buildings that can be defended by police. He explained that when a college lost its accreditation, nobody came and shut down the school. There were no legal penalties, no fines, no jail sentences. Classes did not stop. Everything went on just as before. Students got the same education they would if the school didn't lose its accreditation. All that would happen, Phædrus said, would simply be an official recognition of a condition that already existed. It would be similar to excommunication. What would happen is that the real University, which no legislature can dictate to and which can never be identified by any location of bricks or boards or glass, would simply declare that this place was no longer "holy ground." The real University would vanish from it, and all that would be left was the bricks and the books and the material manifestation.

It must have been a strange concept to all of the students, and I can imagine him waiting for a long time for it to sink in, and perhaps then waiting for the question, What do you think the real University is?

His notes, in response to this question, state the following:

The real University, he said, has no specific location. It owns no property, pays no salaries and receives no material dues. The real University is a state of mind. It is that great heritage of rational thought that has been brought down to us through the centuries and which does not exist at any specific location.

It's a state of mind which is regenerated throughout the centuries by a body of people who traditionally carry the title of professor, but even that title is not part of the real University. The real University is nothing less than the continuing body of reason itself.

In addition to this state of mind, "reason," there's a legal entity which is unfortunately called by the same name but which is quite another thing. This is a nonprofit corporation, a branch of the state with a specific address. It owns property, is capable of paying salaries, of receiving money and of responding to legislative pressures in the process.

But this second university, the legal corporation, cannot teach, does not generate new knowledge or evaluate ideas. It is not the real University at all. It is just a church building, the setting, the location at which conditions have been made favorable for the real church to exist.

Confusion continually occurs in people who fail to see this difference, he said, and think that control of the church buildings implies control of the church.

They see professors as employees of the second university who should abandon reason when told to and take orders with no backtalk, the same way employees do in other corporations.

They see the second university, but fail to see the first.

1 comment:

  1. Também é um dos meus livros favoritos. É um daqueles bastiões de pensamento lógico. Há anos uso uma frase desse livro na minha sig, que pra mim é a essência do ato de programar... deixa ver se eu acho aqui... ah, tá aqui:

    "Peace of mind isn't at all superficial, really."I expound. "It's the whole thing. That which produces it is good maintenance; that which disturbs it is poor maintenance. What we call workability of the machine is just an objectification of this peace of mind. The ultimate test is always your own serenity."