I first read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance when I was a freshman in college. It left a mark on me, especially one specific passage that focuses on peace of mind. I didn’t have much peace of mind when I was a freshman; I just started the process of self-awareness, of figuring out who I was outside of my home community. The problem was that I didn’t know who I was outside of my community, and that prevented me from having peace of mind. So when I read this quote, it resonated:
“Peace of mind isn’t at all superficial, really,” I expound. “It’s the whole thing. That which produces it is good maintenance; that which disturbs it is poor maintenance. What we call workability of the machine is just an objectification of this peace of mind. The ultimate test’s always your own serenity. If you don’t have this when you start and maintain it while you’re working you’re likely to build your personal problems right into the machine itself.”
It took a decade for me to figure out who I was, and in that process, find peace of mind. I had to keep working on “the machine” of the self, something we all have to continually do since retaining peace of mind is an act of ongoing metaphysical maintenance.
To remind myself of this process, I laminated the quotation and put it in my wallet. When I stopped carrying a wallet, I taped the laminated quote to my laptop–so I would see it frequently and thus focus on my level of serenity, since serenity is the ongoing test of one’s peace of mind.