Friday, February 3, 2012

What is Quality?

I've been putting this post off for several days now because I just wasn't sure how to start it. But now I think I do.
I'm in high school. And sometimes, high school can get really tough and the teachers always tell you to do your best and show quality work. But my question is this. What is quality? What the hell is quality?! There are nineteen different definitions of quality. And because of those nineteen different definitions, an actual definition of quality can't be found. It would be like closing your eyes, running your finger up and down the numbers, picking one blindly and saying "Yep, that's quality!". It just doesn't work that way.

Quality can't be defined by one single thing, because there's too many things that are pegged to quality. In my AP English class at school I recently read an excerpt from a fictional and philosophical book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values written by Robert M. Pirsig in 1974. The author, Pirsig, makes his main character reflect on a hiking trip he took with his son. In those couple of paragraphs I remember something that the character said about the mountain that he and his son were going to climb and all the different ways of getting through the mountain.

Pirsig writes about the mountain and how "For more than three centuries now the old routes common in this hemisphere have been undercut and almost washed out by the natural erosion and change of the shape of the mountain wrought by scientific truth. The early climbers established paths that were on firm ground with an accessibility that appealed to all, but today the Western routes are all but closed because of dogmatic inflexibility in the face of change."

The way Pirsig writes about the mountain and all its different paths is how I think of quality. Quality has so many definitions to its name that nobody really knows how to comprehend what quality actually is. Quality doesn't hold the same meaning to me as it does to anyone who reads this post. Just like forming new paths in the mountain, quality has a different feeling and different definition to each and every person. Quality doesn't have a solid definition and maybe that's why kids at school get frustrated when they're told to produce quality work. Because they don't know what quality work is. But maybe having no solid definition will make people stop and think about what they are going to do with their life.

But that is something that I haven't quite figured out yet.