I do a lot of reading, both on the job and for pleasure. This summer, I read three fictional novels; fiction takes me to a different place, away from the “real” world we all deal with day to day. One book that I have never read is “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values,” by Robert M. Pirsig. I knew at one time this book, published back in 1974, was very popular (some called it a classic) but I never got around to picking up a copy.
Well, after reading some of the reviews of the book online this week, I am a bit hesitant to read it. Some called it a book about bullying, some said it was boring (especially the motorcycle maintenance parts) and some called it very disjointed.
However, others enjoyed the philosophical passages in the book, which I am interested in reading. I guess I have been intrigued by the meaning of zen and how it relates to getting this newspaper on the stands each week. One definition of zen is this: zen: a state of calm attentiveness in which one's actions are guided by intuition rather than by conscious effort.
I think many of us veterans at the newspaper do work in a zen state of mind each week. We talk when we need to talk to each other but most of the time we need to be calm and work by intuition to get our individual jobs done – to meld with others’ work – by Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m. – press deadline! Having worked with several personalities at the newspaper over the years, there have been some people who needed to rush here and there, talk to themselves so others could hear them, bang and thrash, holler and more. Kind of the opposite of zen. Mostly, however, the people I have worked with have had a quiet demeanor, get their job done without hardly a peep all week, and roll into the next week’s work pile somewhat effortlessly. Advertising, billing, subscriptions, bookkeeping, editorial and production must all work together in a calm way to produce this newspaper. And the newspaper staffs have done so since 1876.
Yes, our jobs here are stressful at times, but having zen is a way of dealing with our stress ... and to finish what we are supposed to do – get the paper out!