My great, great grandparents, Peter and Mary Ann Davey with eldest daughter MaryAnne at Creswick, Victoria, C1868.
I shook the Family Tree and down came MaryAnne Goodwin Davey.
When I first came to Tasmania I gave no thought to the fact that I was returning to the state where my great, great grandmother arrived in Australia, as a convict, in 1845 on the “Tory 1”. Catharine Steele nee Platt, was a widow and worked as a laundress to support two little daughters. Times were tough and she stole some shoes and her and her children were deported to Launceston. Sadly, her children died on the voyage, she was reported to have been quarrelsome and discontented, not surprising, given the circumstances.
Catharine married another convict, James Goodwin, on 10/8/1846 at Campbell Town C. of E., James was a potter convicted in1840 of burglary. At the time of their marriage James was 32, a farmer and Catharine was 33, a servant. The census in 1848 shows them living in Launceston where son James was born 1847 but died in 1848. Mary Ann was born in 1849. Then twin boys, William and Joseph were born in 1851, sadly Joseph died in 1852.
In Sept. of 1853 the family left for the Victorian Goldfields on “Queen of the Netherlands”.
Mary Ann 4, William 2, with their parents travelled inland from Port Phillip Bay, a long, tiring journey, probably on foot north of Melbourne to settle in Creswick, where rough huts and tents were home to the gold diggers.
They arrived into a harsh countryside with rough bark huts or tents, as shelters from the extreme cold of winter. Catharine, at 40 years would have few female friends among the diggers – most of the men would leave their wives and children in the towns but the Goodwins had no home or town so they had to establish for themselves with whatever they could find.
There is no evidence that any gold was found but this pioneer family braved the elements and harsh conditions to be the foundation of the Raisbeck side of the family in Australia. In the early years of the colony there was little medical help available and “survival of the fittest” prevailed.The women were also expected to bake the bread and grow the vegetables. There was no running water or electricity or sewerage syastem so life consisted of hard work just to remain alive.
Mary Ann Goodwin married Pietro Fandony , (PeterDavey) in 1864 when she was 15 years and they had 11 children, including my grandmother, Violet Fandony who was born in 1886 at Creswick, Victoria.
Violet married Edwin Raisbeck and they were my paternal grandparents.
All families have stories, some are true and others are myths.
How do we know the difference? I set out to find the proof of our family history.
Belmont Resident Dies at 85
(NMH Tuesday feb.10, 1970)
Funeral services will be held at Broadmeadow today for Mr. Thomas Edwin Raisbeck, a descendant of Charles Dickens.
Mr. Raisbeck died at his home in Belmont at the age of 85.
He was the son of Charles Dickens’ eldest daughter, Catherine.
His father, Edwin Sheffield Raisbeck, migrated to Australia in the 1800’s and settled in Ballarat (Vic.) during the goldrush of 1851.
Mr. Raisbeck was born in Ballarat in 1884 and became a champion gymnast.
He married Miss Violet Fandoni Davey in Sydney in 1908. Her grandmother was Italian opera singer Rosina Fandoni.
A signwriter all his life, Mr. Raisbeck moved to Maitland in 1922 where he established a business. He retired to Belmont in 1960.Mr. Raisbeck is the father of 6 children, one of whom is the famous singer, Rosina Raisbeck.
The others are Charles Raisbeck of Cessnock, Ted and Alan, of Newcastle, Harry of Wollongong and Connie of Gosford.
Mr. Raisbeck had 19 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
As the eldest daughter of the eldest son of Thomas Edwin Raisbeck, I have attempted to establish our illustrious family tree. Alas, all I have found is the truth.We are not related to Charles Dickens at all.
Pictured from left: Joyce Raisbeck, Charles Raisbeck (my parents), Janice Macpherson with son David, Rosina Raisbeck, Violet Fandony and Thomas Edwin Raisbeck.
Photo commemorates 50th. Wedding Anniversary 21st. September 1958.
“Superficially, a family might look like an accidental gathering of individuals called together by chance meeting of a man and woman who fell in love and wanted to express the depth of their love in procreation.
At a deeper level, a family is an incredible intertwining of multiple streams of ancestry, memory, shadow and light.
Each home hosts the arrival of history and assists the departure of new destiny.
The walls of the home contain immense happenings that occur gradually under the subtle veil of normality. Though each family is a set of new individuals, ancient relics and residues seep through from past generations. Except for our parents and grandparents, our ancestors have vanished.
Yet, ultimately, and proximately, it is the ancestors who call us here. We belong to their lifeline. While they ground our unknown memory, our continuity bestows on them a certain oblique eternity. In our presence we entwine past and future.”
John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes.
I became interested in family history when my curiosity was aroused about how my family came to Australia. It had never been discussed in our home and the only clue to my ancestors was a family myth about my grandfather being an illegitimate grandson of Charles Dickens. This has proved to be false and I was not popular when I discovered that.
Eventually, I found that I had English and Irish convicts as well as an Italian who might have jumped ship.
There must have been a resiliency bred into them, they survived harsh conditions and poverty, some of them living long lives with many children. My family are now scattered all across Australia so I decided to write some stories to be handed down to the next generations.
The first family member to arrive was Charles Reginald Burgess, a farm labourer from Edington, England and his story begins at Sydney Cove as a convict sent out to Australia in 1829 for stealing a sack of potatoes, presumably to support his pregnant wife.
The need to support his family apparently not strong enough to prevent him from being sentenced and transported to Australia.On arrival he was assigned to work for John Town of Richmond and was eventually to settle in the Wollombi area at Cockfighter Creek.
The law, at the time, permitted those living in the new colony to annul any previous marriage so, since his daughter in England had died, probably of starvation, in 1836 Charles married his second wife Mary Casey and they had 4 sons, Charles, William, Leonard and John. Leonard was my Great Grandfather.
Mary and Charles Reginald Burgess.
Mary’s father was a convict, Cornelius, and his wife Honora and 3 daughters followed him from Ireland to make a new life with him in Australia, thus escaping the Irish famine.
In 1854 Mary left the family home and Charles put an advertisement in the local newspaper warning people that he was no longer supporting her and not to give her credit.Mary lived another 15 years and my guess is that she went to look after her mother until Honora died in 1855.
The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River District News
Wednesday 13 February, 1850
Singleton, Feb. 11th, 1850.
Supposed Case of Incendiarism.-We are sorry to have to record that a serious destruction of property took place on the farm of Charles Burgess, of Cockfighter‘s Creek, about 9 o’clock on Thursday night last, when his barn, containing about 400 bushels of wheat belonging to himself, and 200 bushels the property of a man
named Fletcher, was discovered to be on fire, at which time the flames had made such progress that any effort to save the property was entirely useless.
From circumstances which had publicly taken place just before the occurrence of
this painful event, the inhabitants (Burgess and Fletcher included) are led to believe, on reasonable grounds, that this destruction of the fruits of their labour has been accomplished by an incendiary.
Influenced by this opinion, some of the leading and right-minded inhabitants have taken measures to raise a subscription on behalf of the sufferers ; and surely if there are generous hearts in Wollombi, they will come forward on this occasion, and by their aid in the cause of humanity, put into practice the first and greatest of Chnstian virtues.
I feel assured that their charitable feeling will this time influence them to save two families from want, and also induce them to frustrate the design of their ruthless enemy.
On Friday night a man named Collins was placed in our lockup, on suspicion of having committed the crime above mentioned. On the day following he was brought up before Major Sullivan, who, after a strict investigation of the case and
examination of witnesses, ordered the prisoner to be remanded for farther examination.
Again in 1858 Charles had another scrape with the law and was charged for cattle duffing.
In 1870 he married Jane Brien (1846-1919) 50 years his junior, (said to be the nanny of his children) together they became the parents of another eleven children. Along with the celebration of a marriage in 1870, tragedy struck with the loss of two small children, Rueben and Cornelius within months of each other, one of the children a baby of three months old, Jane’s father also died in 1870.
Maybe they had been affected by the river flooding which occured regularly. Earliest flood’ in the Hunter about which there is any definite information occurred in 1818, twoyears before the district was discovered.It left behind it obvious traces of its severitysuch as trees which had lodged in the branches ofothers a long way from the ground.Before that, however, the erratic behaviour ofthe Hunter was well known to the blacks, whohanded down authentic stories of bygone floods fromgeneration to generation.But what was the biggest flood ever known inthe Hunter valley?There are plenty of agedpeople in Singleton who claimthat the deluge of March, 1893,in which month 1314 points ofrain fell, caused the greatestinundation ever.But that is because they werenot alive when a worse oneoccurred in 1820 ,73 yearsearlier.From a study of Singleton’shistory it would appear thatthere was a long standing controversy over the date of theflood of floods.Eighty years ago, a RoyalCommission on Floods, whichsat in the local Court Housewas told by Mr. John Eckford,of Maitland, that the riverrose seven feet higher than thatof 1826, its nearest rival.He selected three spots each aconsiderable distance apartwhich the water had reachedand the Commission ordered anexpert to take measurements.The levels agreed and so theargument was settled for alltime.ROSE 63 FEETIn his evidence Mr. Wyndham. of Dalwood, said that the1820 flood reached 63 feet abovesummer level.Nevertheless the 1826 floodmust have been a corker, forRev. Alfred Glennie to tell theCommission that, in his opinion,the river rose higher than theone six years earlier.That floods were more frequent in the early days iseasily proved. In the 17 yearsbetween 1857 and 1874, for instance, the Hunter “played up*’five times—in 1857 1861, 1867,1870 and 1874.Nowadays inundations arepopularly believed to comealong about every 20 years, butthat is based on comparativelyrecent history.About this “time (1861) theford at the foot of George St.was impassable for two monthsand hundreds of teams conveying foodstuffs to the north wereheld up. From the outcry arosea demand for a bridge, andabout 40 years later the Dunollybridge was built.In 1867 telegraph lines acrossthe river were snapped by flooddebris and ‘ the telegraphistwashed out of his office. TheWesleyan Church and schoolroom at Wollombi disappearedin the waters, followed by astore and contents at Broke.The inundation of March,1870, came quietly and unexpectedly because there had beencomparatively little rain butit did a lot of damage andseven people were drowned atDenman. .At Muswellbrook a prisoner inthe local lock-up kicked up afuss because the water was upto his shoulders.HOLIDAY VISITATIONThe flood of 1874 arrived,of all days, on Anniversary Day.Three local residents, whostruck the current at the cornerof George and Macquarie streetswhile rowing a boat, had afrightening experience when thecraft was dashed against a rail-‘ing which tore out its bottom.The same day a large floodboat, returning from rescuework at Dunolly received a tremendous bump near the Pitzroyhotel and sank with eleven occupants. Luckily none wasdrowned. The bump occurredwhen the boat struck the topof a street alignment post whichtore a large hole in it.After 1874 a number of lessimportant floods occurred in theHunter until the one Singletonpeople know as the worst theyhave seen came along in 1893.There were some drowning casesand a house and furniture owned by a railway employee saileddown the stream.ALWAYS CATCHES ITMaitland people recall theterrible damage the 1893 flooddid to the town. Every streetwas feet deep in water and atthe station the tops of railwaycarriages were covered. Eventhe floors of some balconieswere flooded.Twenty ? years later, in 1913the next big outbreak occurredand left the usual trail of desolation in its wake.A milder one was recorded inJune of 1930, when 12 inchesof rain fell.And then, of course, there wasits recent successor when, onthe morning of June 18 last theHunter decided that Singletonstreets were due for a wash;but it was gone within a comparatively few hours only toprovide Maitland with the worstcatastrophe since 1893.The earlier frequencies areunderstood to have been basedupon the fact that the riverchannel differed vastly fromwhat it is today and that thewater had not the same meansof escape to the sea as it hasat present.DQUBLES ITS WIDTHThis belief was supported byj evidence given by Mr. AlexMunro at the Commission, whoknew the Hunter since 1830. Hesaid the river channel at Singleton had greatly increased insize in the vicinity of the town.A local chemist, Mr. W. C.Lesley, at one time member for Jthe district, said during his 28years’ residence in the town theHunter had doubled its width.The 1857 flood was claimed byMr. John Brown to be greaterthan that of 1826, but no otherwitness agreed with him.In July, 1861, the Hunter roseafter a tremendous fall of rain,flooded the lower Hunter butdid not overflow its banks atSingleton.A month later the old riverwas in flood again. The waterdid not rise as high as itspredecessor, but Maitland wasflooded again. At Glennie’sCreek the rise was reported tobe much higher than in 1857,which seems extraordinary.
Eveline, born in 1874, grew up in the Wollombi area and was courted by her husband to be, Thomas John Sylvester for an extended period.
It was Eveline who would look after her aged father until his death in 1903 thus preventing her and Thomas from marrying any earlier that when they did, she was 32 in 1870.
Thomas Sylvester grew up a few miles further on from Wollombi area at Stockyard Creek, Payne’s Crossing. On their marriage certificate Thomas was listed as a dairyman; this was just one of the many farm orientated jobs he would hold and use to eventually support his wife and seven children. On the fifteenth of August 1906 Eveline [Evelyn] and Thomas were married in Lady of Our Lourdes Church at Payne’s Crossing. The wedding was one of the largest to be seen anywhere at the time or even as would be seen today. Indeed it was a double wedding also celebrated Thomas’ sister Louisa and her husband to be, William James Martin.
Upon their marriage Eveline and Thomas settled at the end of the Stockyard Creek Valley in a house made with vertical timber slabs. It was at this home that five of their seven children would live until sometime around nineteen thirteen, when the family packed up all their goods and chatels on a bullock wagon and moved to Martinsville. The road acrosss the Wattagan Mountain from Paynes Crossing has hardly changed from that time. Its hard to imagine that the fully laden waggons were able to negotiate the track or road as was. While it would have been Thomas that drove the Waggon through the mountain it would have been Eveline that was left to drive the horse and carriage with five young children, four girls and a boy. The eldest of the girls not long entering their teenage years.
As tedious as this journey was, it was a journey that would be made on a regular occcurence when Thomas and the eldest of his daughters and eventually his sons would drive cattle back and forth through the mountains between the properties at Payne’s Crossing and Martinsville. Thomas and Eveline soon built up a business of general farming involving the timber industry, cattle dealing, dairying, including owning and running a butcher shop at Cooranbong. Eveline herself worked in the Butcher Shop while her daughter Louise was left to look after the younger members of the family. The family business grew to one of the largest in the local community employing several family members and other itinerant workers, all of this would end when Thomas and Eveline seperated.
Upon the separation Eveline moved to the Newcastle area and had to seek employment to support herself. In May of 1952 Eveline was a passenger in a car at Wellington NSW, when the car driven by her daughter in-laws brother, ran off the road and hit an electric light pole just North of Wellington. As a result of the accident Eveline was tragically killed; she is buried at Cooranbong Catholic Cemetery N.S.W. next to her husband of nearly forty years, Thomas John Sylvester.
Earlier this year I decided that I needed to get out more, meet new people, make friends, find my tribe.
This didn’t necessarily stem from loneliness, but as part of a healing plan to distract me from chronic pain. Fortunately, I found that My Aged Care package could answer my need for transport, company, adventures and food, without any out-of-pocket expense.
In conjunction with laser acupuncture treatments, new sleep routines and less codeine dependence, I am remarkably well.
So, in the last few months I have been on so many trips.
Thanks to my provider, Uniting Age Well, the little bus turns up at the gate, and our little group of oldies, accompanied by a carer and trusty helper and driver set off every fortnight to find new places to explore, great food and share stories together.
Pain depends on the Balance of Danger and Safety cues.
What is lacking? Loving support.
When I first moved into my unit at the Retirement Village I felt very alone.
Money was a big issue.
Then, I fell out of the bed I had borrowed from Management, banging my arm and foot against a nearby desk. This caused shock and considerable pain and bruising. The ambulance attended and I was advised to see the GP next morning.
Thankfully, no bones were broken but I continued to have severe back, leg and knee pain. On investigation by specialists, I learned my back was a mess of problems, untreatable and prescribed codeine based painkillers.
I have been on the waiting list for the pain clinic at the Royal Hospital Hobart since November 2016.
This year the Government have decided that taking opioid based medications, even on prescription only basis, is not a good treatment so the GP tried to cut me off “cold turkey” with the result I ended up in hospital with uncontrolled high blood pressure.
So, next thing I tried is laser acupuncture every week for about 3 months. At the same time, weaning myself gradually from the pills.
Then the Pain Revolution Team rode their bicycles into town to teach the latest theories about pain www.painrevolution.org
The Local Pain Educator Program is a community based health promotion initiative that helps raise awareness of educational models for pain relief in a biosychosocial model of care.
From this teaching I have learned to find alternative ways to tell my body that I am SAFE now. I don’t need pain to protect me. I can change my thoughts, beliefs, peers and fears of past events.
The relationship between the body, the brain and the mind is complex and magnificent, which is why lots of people are investigating it. This website focuses on attempts to better understand the way the body, brain and mind interact.
Research into the role of the brain and mind in chronic pain
BJSM British Journal Sports Medicine
The lead scientist, Prof. Lorimer Moseley, is particularly interested in the role of the brain and mind in chronic and complex pain disorders. Through collaborations with clinicians, scientists, patients and thoughtful friends, the team is exploring how the brain and its representation of the body change when pain persists, how the mind influences physiological regulation of the body, how the changes in the brain and mind can be normalised via treatment, and how we can teach people about it all in a way that is both interesting and accurate.
This website includes links to published articles, current projects, teaching resources for clinicians and lecturers, books, seminars and conferences and other info that the team thinks is intriguing, important or irresistible.
He has published over 280 articles, five books and numerous book chapters. He has given over 140 keynote or invited presentations at interdisciplinary meetings in 30 countries and has provided professional education in pain sciences to over 15,000 medical and health practitioners and public lectures to 35,000. His research group outreach videos and articles have attracted over 3.5 million views/reads.
When to start to investigate your needs for care in your later years?
As my friends and I approached our 80th. birthdays, we began to seriously think about how we could manage to stay independent and healthy for as long as possible, without making any changes.
What is available?
In order to thoughtfully prepare for a time when we could no longer manage to live alone, in our family home, we investigated as many options as we could in order to be able to discuss the merits of each type of accommodation.
There are very expensive purpose built Retirement Villages and for those who have the finances, that could be the answer. However, I did not have that option so I decided to live in a rental unit for independent over ’55’s.
When I am no longer able to stay here, because of more intense nursing care needs, I will be able to look further into the possibility of a Nursing Home. Most people do not want this for themselves, and you don’t have to be anxious about it, you can only get into one if you are referred by a hospital or GP because you definitely need that level of care.
Do you need more information about ageing independently at home?
Do you care for an older person who needs help at home?
Do you have trouble finding the information you need about aged care at home?
A free and friendly community service is available:
Aged Care Know-How 03 62313265 cotatas.org.au
My Aged Care
Clients wanting to access services through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme will need to contact My Aged Care for initial eligibility screening either electronically or by phone.
After the My Aged Care contact centre identifies their level of need, the client will undergo either a home support assessment or a comprehensive assessment (by an existing Aged Care Assessment Team). Clients wanting to access services through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme will need to contact My Aged Care for initial eligibility screening either electronically or by phone.
After the My Aged Care contact centre identifies their level of need, the client will undergo either a home support assessment or a comprehensive assessment (by an existing Aged Care Assessment Team).
Clients wanting to access services through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme will need to contact My Aged Care for initial eligibility screening either electronically or by phone.
After the My Aged Care contact centre identifies their level of need, the client will undergo either a home support assessment or a comprehensive assessment (by an existing Aged Care Assessment Team). I was introduced to the perplexing world of Aged Care just before my 80th. Birthday.
Being unfamiliar with what was available to help me settle in to my new home state, I asked for help from a Social worker at the Dept. of Human Services.
That was a smart thing to do because I had no idea about registering with My Aged Care but this woman went straight to the phone and began the process.
Or ring 1800200422 in order to be assessed for the benefits you are entitled to in order to keep you healthy and happy living in your choice of accommodation as you age.
In the community there are so many groups offering services and by contacting one or more a representative will come to your home to discuss what help you may need with the following:
Social Support. The best advice is that YOU make the choices.
After the My Aged Care contact centre identifies your level of need, you will undergo either a home support assessment or a comprehensive assessment (by an existing Aged Care Assessment Team).
From 1 July, My Aged Care will introduce a central, streamlined pathway for assessment and referrals into aged care services for people aged over 65.
Service providers will be able to make one electronic referral to My Aged Care for multiple services for a client, with the development of a streamlined and consistent client referrals process across local health districts, and the use of a central client record.
Implementing Wellness and Reablement
Integral to the changes to Aged Care are concepts of wellness and reablement, seeking to work with people and their carers to maximise their independence and autonomy. The wellness approach involves a holistic or whole person view, and encourages clients having difficulty with activities of daily living to increase their ability – to ‘do with’, rather than ‘do for’.
Aged Care RAS will aim to understand the client’s needs, abilities and strengths, and use this information to develop the client’s support plan, with targeted interventions that work towards a person’s goal or desired outcome.
“Rather than taking political sides, attempt to see all points of view before making a Quality decision.
Why does this fit into Pirsig?
Because the mechanism of Quality is to sit with the facts and allow the best ones to emerge. The ones that have Quality.
And remember, Quality isn’t a thing, it’s an ongoing emergence.
What is prescribed by Pirsig seems to me, so far, to be in a state of consciousness that allows this emergence.
This is the state Peace of mind and of caring about what you doing.”
In 1967, as the psychedelic sounds of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album echoed around world, Robert Pirsig started writing an essay called Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for his motorcycling buddy John Sutherland. By the time of its eventual publication about seven years later it had grown to the length of a rather substantial novel. The narrative framework is a motorcycle journey from Minnesota to California made by Pirsig and his 11 year old son Chris along with John Sutherland and his wife Sylvia. Into the story of this journey – of the places they ride through, the interactions between the characters, and looking after the motorbikes – Pirsig weaves reflections on their lives, on the relationship between technology and art; on Zen Buddhism; on Greek philosophy; and ultimately on the foundations of values.
As with Sgt. Pepper, Pirsig’s book became an important ‘culture bearer’ of its time, albeit with readers who were slightly older and more cynical than most Beatles fans. Pirsig did have a lot of sympathy for what the hippies and young people were trying to do, but he saw that for their progressive ideals to become established they needed to ground their ideas in practical changes. Free love, hedonism, and psychedelics won’t change this world for the better by themselves. This is one of the primary reasons Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was written. It gives us, amongst other things, a rational framework (or ‘static latch’) to underpin the hippy ideals of peace, love, artistic creativity and personal freedom. It is my concern here, therefore, to introduce to you, the one and only Robert Pirsig, and his Metaphysics of Quality. I hope you enjoy the ride!
As well as Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Robert Pirsig was the author in 1991 of a sequel, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals. The former is now the best-selling philosophy book of all time, having sold millions of copies in 23 languages. Together the two books form a single Zen koan or puzzle, designed to impart an understanding of the Good (or, as Pirsig would say, of Quality) without putting it into a static definition.
Pirsig is generally considered to be a US philosopher and writer, but he lived for a few years as a young child in England during the early 1930s, and later returned to England in the late 1970s, living on a boat off the coast of Cornwall. He also wrote much of his second book in Sweden, the place of his grandmother’s birth. Pirsig was generally a recluse, so, for instance, he never answered a phone. He explained his behaviour thus: “The Buddhist monk has a precept against indulging in idle conversation, and I think the basis of that precept is what motivates me” (Letter from Robert Pirsig to Bodvar Skutvik, 17th August 1997).
The beginnings of his Metaphysics of Quality can be traced back to 1959 when Pirsig was an English teacher at Montana State College, in the American mid-West. As a new lecturer, he noticed that he was under legal contract to teach ‘quality’ to his students, even though it was not made clear by the college authorities what was meant by this term. Pirsig soon realised that teachers had been passing and failing students on the quality of their work for centuries without any viable definition of what ‘quality’ actually was. It was this unsatisfactory state of affairs which gave Pirsig the inspiration to start his particular line of philosophical inquiry.
In Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig first explored the history of the term ‘Quality’, or what the Ancient Greeks called arête, tracing it all the way back to Plato (428-348 BCE). He concluded that the strange position of Quality in today’s West originated with Plato’s division of the human soul into its reason and emotion aspects, in his dialogue the Phaedrus. In this dialogue, Plato gave primary place to reason over emotion. Soon afterwards Aristotle was similarily emphasizing analysis over rhetoric. And as Hugh Lawson-Tancred confirms in the Introduction to his 1991 translation of Aristotle’s Rhetoric: “There are few things that are more to be deplored in Greek culture, and notably in the legacy of Plato, than the wholly forced and unnatural division between… [the] two sister studies” of rhetoric and philosophy (p.57). Eventually this division grew into the ‘subjective versus objective’ way of thinking now largely dominant in the West. So now in the West we have objectivity, reason, logic, and dialectic on the one hand; and subjectivity, emotion, imagination, intuition, and rhetoric on the other. The former terms suggest scientific respectability, while the latter are often assumed to be artistic terms, having little place in science or rationality. It is this Platonic conception of rationality that Pirsig sought to challenge by reconciling the spiritual (for example, Zen), artistic (for example, art) and scientific (for example, motorcycle maintenance) realms within the unifying paradigm of the Metaphysics of Quality.
Sadly, Pirsig died in April 2017, aged 88. In my PhD I closely analysed his Metaphysics of Quality, and concluded that although traditional philosophical concepts such as causation and truth are given unconventional meanings in Pirsig’s writing, there is an advantage in using his system because it has an internal coherence lacking in metaphysical systems based on Plato’s example. I had the good fortune to discuss these ideas extensively with Robert Pirsig himself, and have used extracts from some of his letters to clarify various points in what follows.
Chris with John and Sylvia Sutherland at Bear Tooth Pass, July 1968 Photo by Robert Pirsig
Pirsig postulates that everything that exists can be assumed to be a value (though he divides values into two classes, as we’ll see later). As his system differs from traditional Western metaphysics by making values the ultimate basis of reality, it should come as no surprise that this has relatively radical consequences for his depiction of reality.
In Lila, Pirsig adds the following:
“The Metaphysics of Quality subscribes to what is called empiricism. It claims that all legitimate human knowledge arises from the senses or by thinking [based on] what the senses provide. Most empiricists deny the validity of any knowledge gained through imagination, authority, tradition, or purely theoretical reasoning. They regard fields such as art, morality, religion, and metaphysics as unverifiable. The Metaphysics of Quality varies from this by saying that the values of art and morality and even religious mysticism are verifiable and that in the past have been excluded for metaphysical reasons, not empirical reasons. They have been excluded because of the metaphysical assumption that all the universe is composed of subjects and objects and anything that can’t be classified as a subject or an object isn’t real. There is no empirical evidence for this assumption at all.” (p.121)
It is worth emphasising here that ‘subjects’ and ‘objects’ are intellectual concepts, rather than concepts derived from experience. Unfortunately, these concepts have been ingrained in us from an early age, so we generally accept their validity without question. But this is basically just a metaphysical convention. Pirsig would say that reality can be divided up metaphysically in numerous ways: it’s just that some ways are better than others!
So instead of dividing everything into subjects and objects, Pirsig divides reality into Dynamic Quality (this is capitalised deliberately) and static quality. ‘Dynamic Quality’ is the term he gives to the continually changing flux of immediately-experienced reality, while ‘static quality’ refers to any concept abstracted from this flux. The term ‘Dynamic’ indicates something not fixed or determinate, which means that Dynamic Quality cannot be defined, and therefore a true understanding of it can only be given directly in experience. As Herbert Günther says in his book Philosophy & Psychology in the Abidharma (1957), “The Ultimate, in Buddhism, is something knowable, though not known by theory or discursive method, but by direct experience” (p.235). In other words, the Buddha can’t tell you what Dynamic Quality is, but he can point a way so that you can experience it for yourself, and then you might understand. Or as Pirsig wrote in a letter to me of 6th October 1997:
“It’s important to keep all ‘concepts’ out of Dynamic Quality. Concepts are always static. Once they get into Dynamic Quality they’ll overrun it and try to present it as some kind of a concept itself… [For instance] time is only a problem for the [Platonists] because if time has none of the properties of an object then it must be subjective. And if time is subjective that means Newton’s laws of acceleration and many other laws of physics are subjective. Nobody in the scientific world wants to allow that. All this points to a huge fundamental metaphysical difference between the MOQ [Metaphysics of Quality] and classical science: The MOQ is truly empirical. Science is not. Classical science starts with a concept of the objective world – atoms and molecules – as the ultimate reality. This concept is certainly supported by empirical observation but it is not the empirical observation itself.”
Revealing the Metaphysics of Quality’s East Asian foundations, in another letter to me of 17th August 1997, Pirsig asserts that Dynamic Quality refers to what Buddhists would call ‘unconditioned reality’, and static quality refers to ‘conditioned reality’ – more commonly known by the Buddhists as ‘the everyday world’:
“The Dynamic reality that goes beyond words is the constant focus of Zen teaching… ‘Unpatterned’ might work as well except that ‘unpatterned’ suggests that there is nothing there and all is quiet. There is nothing in the sense of no ‘thing’, that is, ‘no object’, and the Buddhists use nothingness in this way, but the term Dynamic is more in keeping within the quotation, ‘Within nothingness there is a great working’, from the Zen master, Kategiri Roshi… The logical positivists’ fundamental error in my opinion is the assumption that because philosophy is about words it is therefore about words alone. This is the fallacy of ‘devouring the menu instead of the meal’. Their common argumentative tactic is to say that anything they cannot feed through their little box of linguistic analysis is not philosophy. But if discussion about ‘the good’ (which is fundamentally beyond words) is not philosophy then Socrates was not a philosopher, since that was his primary subject.”
By ‘static quality’, Pirsig doesn’t refer to something that lacks movement in the Newtonian sense of ‘static’ (he agreed with me that the word ‘stable’ would have been better because of this ambiguity), but refers to any repeated arrangement – that is, to any pattern that appears long enough to be noticed within the flux of immediate experience – whether inorganic (for example, chemicals, forces), organic (plants, animals), social (cities, ant nests), or intellectual (thoughts, ideas).
This time of the year in Tasmania means the days are getting chilly and very short. Lots of layers of clothing when I venture out but last week I had tickets to an event that is part of Dark Mofo and was marketed as Dark and Dangerous Thoughts.