Media Devices, Mediation and Zen

I’ve been re-reading Quotes from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and coincidentally just had the unfortunate experience of spending the last two days setting up my home media devices. As I struggled to get my media devices to talk to each other, I thought of similar struggles in mediation and in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

My television goes kaput

It all started when my television stopped working several weeks ago. Sadly, a google search revealed the cause of the problem and that it was unrepairable. With no other options, I trotted off to the store to buy a brand new smart TV.

More problems

When I opened the cabinet to install my new TV, I found three turntables, a tape deck, several old speakers, a DVD player and receiver. I quickly discarded the dust-covered turntables and tape deck. I also discarded other 1980’s vintage equipment that had no ports compatible with my new TV. Once again I trotted off to the store. This time I bought a new DVD player, speakers and receiver.

Figuring out how to hook up new equipment

With these new devices in hand, I spent the next two and half days trying to get the new equipment to talk to each other. The instructions for each device described a different configuration. After much trial and error, I finally got the equipment to work together. Using the optical cable to connect the receiver and the speakers was the key. Success made me feel competent and competence made me very happy. Solving a problem without outside assistance made me doubly happy.

Zen gives me some solace

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is oddly not about Buddhism or motorcycles. While there are several themes, one theme that resonates with me is the human struggle with technology. The book, published in 1974, presents a low bar for technology. The prime examples are maintaining a motorcycle and fixing a leaky faucet. Even though the author had deeper themes than this, I credit this book to my obsession with trying to fix things myself.

Connecting the dots to mediation

The trial and error process of replacing old devices with new and getting the new devices to work together reminds me of the process of mediating a dispute. Each party in mediation comes to the table with a unique set of values and views of the facts. Mediation challenges parties to discard old beliefs and expectations and replace them with new understandings. These new understandings will help the parties work together better in the future.

Mediation also helps the parties talk to each other. Through a “trial and error” discussion, they work together to solve their problem.

This process is not always easy. Sometimes it’s very hard. When the parties come together in a mediated agreement, it makes everyone very happy.

Importance of fixing ourselves and finding happiness

Another theme in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is the importance of fixing ourselves and finding happiness. Certainly there is pleasure from fixing a thing like electronics or a motorcycle. And there is annoyance every time you walk past something you’ve given up trying to fix it.

At a personal level, a dispute can be like a leaky faucet. Fixing the dispute seems too hard. The parties give up working on the problem. They passively hope it might go away. Perhaps a miracle will happen.

Certainly some disputes resolve over time. Others, like a leaky faucet, fester for years until something happens. Finally someone acts.

If that action is a divorce filing, the parties have a choice. One option is fixing it yourself with mediation. Another option us letting a judge fix it for you by going through the courts. A third option is trying mediation first and going to court on only those issues that couldn’t be worked out in mediation. Because mediation is fast, inexpensive, and can be conducted at any time, trying mediation first makes a lot of sense. Surveys show that most mediated cases settle and that parties are happier with mediated settlements than with decisions of a judge. Because you can still go to court if needed, there is no downside to mediation.

Creative solutions come from exploring many options

Mediation empowers and challenges the parties to explore many different options and develop a creative solution to a problem. Like the trial and error method I used to set up my home media, parties in mediation consider different options and discover which one best meets their needs. By contrast, a judge uses legal rules to dictate a solution that may not meet the needs of both parties. Why not take a path that is likely to work, likely to better meet your needs, may save you time and money, and will make you happier?

In conclusion . . .

I leave you with a quote from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

“The way to solve the conflict between human values and technological needs is not to run away from technology. That’s impossible. The way to resolve the conflict is to break down the barrier of dualistic thought that prevent a real understanding of what technology is – not an exploitation of nature, but a fusion of nature and the human spirit into a new kind of creation that transcends both. When this transcendence occurs in such events as the first airplane flight across the ocean or the first footsteps on the moon, a kind of public recognition of the transcendent nature of technology occurs. But this transcendence should also occur at the individual level, on a personal basis, in one’s own life, in a less dramatic way.” Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values.

Now, I’m left with all of the remote controls for these devices and a universal remote that no longer works — a chore for another day.