I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance way back in college. It was one of the key stepping stones toward my conversion to faith. Not a huge step, but a nudge in the spiritual direction. For the first time my left-brained mind could fathom a timeless principle that supercedes Reason and Logic, my “Gods” at the time. And somehow this was all connected to eastern philosophy.
“Phædrus is fascinated by the description of the motive of “duty toward self ” which is an almost exact translation of the Sanskrit word dharma, sometimes described as the “one” of the Hindus. Can the dharma of the Hindus and the “virtue” of the ancient Greeks be identical?
Then Phædrus feels a tugging to read the passage again, and he does so and then — what’s this?! — “That which we translate `virtue ‘ but is in Greek `excellence.”‘
Quality! Virtue! Dharma! That is what the Sophists were teaching! Not ethical relativism. Not pristine “virtue.” But areté. Excellence. Dharma! Before the Church of Reason. Before substance. Before form. Before mind and matter. Before dialectic itself. Quality had been absolute. Those first teachers of the Western world were teaching Quality, and the medium they had chosen was that of rhetoric. He has been doing it right all along.
I read that passage twenty years ago and am living its downstream effects today in many unanticipated ways. Like the butterfly wing that creates the hurricane. This morning I stumbled across an online version. You can download it in PDF too if you want. If you dare. Heh.