A few years ago, I bought a motorcycle. This machine brought me much enjoyment but at the same time, it also made me a bit paranoid. Not paranoid about wheter it would work, but rather paranoid about how it worked. What the relations between all of its parts were and how my actions influenced the working of the machine.
So there are a couple of components needed in order to make the machine run, but in turn, these components are made of many different parts and relationships again. ‘It’s all just … analyses and syntheses and figuring things out and it isn’t really here’.* You can not see it and you do not notice which parts are working in relation to other parts. You know something is happening but what it exactly is, remains a mystery. And if you never see them, you never know what they actually are and what the influence of your actions are on the system. Most of us have no idea what happens after we push the starter button in our car.
*Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
To work away this paranoia, I decided that instead of waiting for the machine to self-destruct eventually, I would take it apart. Inspect its inner workings, repair that what needs repairing and eventually rebuild it and drive it again. I couldn’t stand looking at it as just a motorcycle, something to be used but not understood. I wanted to comprehend the machine in total, not just look at it in terms of what it is; a motorcycle, but to become more involved and actually know how it functions.
Eventually, the time came and everything got back together properly and it all functioned perfectly. By now, I know exactly what happens inside the engine when I give it some throttle. I have become aware of what happens within this bike when I drive it. I know what the relations between parts are, their function and what actions will make them wear sooner rather than later. In return, I can use it in a way that I know it will last much longer than ever before and it has made me more aware of the consequences of my driving. I can not drive it without caring anymore, because I feel guilty if I don’t.
This motorcycle has taught me how individual actions can actually have big consequences in the bigger picture. We can, however, by comprehending how the things we use work and relate to each other, become able to understand their relations. Become familiar with them and relate to the part we play in these bigger ungraspable structures.