All Nature Has Is a Potential

“That’s all the motorcycle is, a system of concepts worked out in steel. There’s no part in it, no shape in it, that is not out of someone’s mind […] I’ve noticed that people who have never worked with steel have trouble seeing this—that the motorcycle is primarily a mental phenomenon. They associate metal with given shapes—pipes, rods, girders, tools, parts—all of them fixed and inviolable., and think of it as primarily physical. But a person who does machining or foundry work or forger work or welding sees “steel” as having no shape at all. Steel can be any shape you want if you are skilled enough, and any shape but the one you want if you are not. Shapes, like this tappet, are what you arrive at, what you give to the steel. Steel has no more shape than this old pile of dirt on the engine here. These shapes are all of someone’s mind. That’s important to see. The steel? Hell, even the steel is out of someone’s mind. There’s no steel in nature. Anyone from the Bronze Age could have told you that. All nature has is a potential for steel. There’s nothing else there.”
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Future Sculpture, Clarence Street Art Collective, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Is the intonation correct?

After a really rough day I needed a little victory so I made a sweet potato casserole to take to a potluck tomorrow. Is a well-cooked casserole a work of art? Probably not. Especially when its destiny is a long table already groaning under other casseroles also full of sweet potatoes (at least mine does not feature marshmallows – it has goat cheese and walnuts) or green beans mixed with oversalty industrial mushroom soup and canned fried onions. I’m sure mine will be ignored, no matter how delicious. Such is the ultimate destiny of all art.

P.S. After having written the above, I went to the kitchen to put my cassarole, which had been cooling on a rack, into the fridge to take to the potluck tomorrow. While transferring it, I dropped it, flipping it onto the kitchen floor.

The day continues.

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7 responses to “All Nature Has Is a Potential

  1. A couple of weeks ago, my sister told me about the time she was clowning around after my dad said to be careful with the pie, and she actually dropped it onto the floor. And today you mention a similar incident. A week ago, my cousin posted a poem about motorcycle repair, mentioned Pirsig, and I had to ask him who Pirsig was, and today you mentioned Pirsig. Yesterday I mentioned the Butterfly Effect in my post. Today I turned on my car stereo and the guy talking mentioned the Butterfly Effect. I wonder what other strange phenomena will happen tomorrow.

  2. I’m glad you do see cooking as an art form and everyone should be a “Rembrandt” at something. WIth my grandmother, it was molasses cookies and with my mom, it was rice with ham hocks. Also, green beans mixed with oversalty industrial mushroom soup and canned fried onions is one of my favorites, though I do lose interest once the onions are gone. I once ate them (the onions) as a snack right out of the can; ditto shoestring potatoes.

    Sorry about the casserole.

    • Thanks for the comment! My grandmother made a pie every day for ever fifty years. I always eat those canned fried onions – they are like crack. You reminded me of shoestring potatoes – they were a big thing from my youth, always available at military commissaries.

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