As the year approaches its end, a particular element of human perception has come to possess my thoughts – that of Quality.
What is Quality and why is it so compelling right now?
As I am influenced by Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZAMM) on this issue, I think of Quality as a phenomenon, an emergence. It is an in the moment recognition of what is good, of value. As the year ends, and a new year begins, thoughts of making things better seem to be innate to being human.
There are 2 characteristics of Quality – the Quality itself; that which is good emerges, and the quality of your engagement – that you care. It is a symbiotic relationship between what emerges and what you perceive as emerging because it appeals to you. Because it appeals to you, it has value, it has Quality. Because it has Quality, you care about it and this caring guides what you discern to be good, to be Quality.
That sounds vague, I know, so let me include one of my favorite quotes from ZAMM. This describes how mathematician Henri Poincare, in his quest to determine mathematical facts, chooses from an infinite array of possibilities:
“In the end he decided that mathematical solutions are selected…on the basis of ‘mathematical beauty’ of the numbers and forms, of geometric elegance. He said “this is a true aesthetic feeling which all mathematicians know… but it is this harmony, this beauty that is at the centre of it all”
Many of us are interested in Eastern philosophies and practices, such Buddhist, Zen and Advaita “I am that” meditations, whose common directive is to “be in the now”. As Westerners, though, we sometimes accept this advice on faith without really understanding what is the real benefit of being present.
From our results-driven Western mind, we see the “goal” of being “in the now” as helping us become more (compassionate, tolerant, focused…inject positive attributes here). But attempting to stay “in the now” and having faith that being present will lead to self-improvement later can leave us with a vague sense of unease that we are “not doing it right” and are somehow morally deficient.
However, this unease could be because we don’t have the “Why” the Western mind generally requires for action. This seeming lack of direction can lead to boredom, or “monkey mind” as a vague “reward” of higher moral character is often only motivating in theory.
I think if we conceive of this “being in the now” as a chance for our unconscious processes to discern Quality, this is more in line with our Western sense of wanting what is “better”, experiencing that “better” as Quality, and at the same time perfectly justifies the reason to be “in the now”
In this way, allowing our unconscious to lead us to what is “better” in the moment is a way to function in the world that can make aesthetic choices, aid in all manner of decisions, and improve the dynamics of our relationships. This way can also help us face difficulty by helping us see the best within the worst. Viktor Frankl certainly knew how to be open to Quality.
So, being “in the now” is the moment of engagement with Quality. It is a way of operating, using the great resources from the East to cultivate meditative consciousness , that can indeed improve our ability to live each moment not just “in the now”, but in a state of being open and receptive towards Quality, and allowing Quality to guide our thoughts and actions.