My Aged Care Questions.

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

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.

Maybe you or a family member can go directly to

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:

Domestic Help

Nursing Care


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.


You do not know precisely what is happening,

  Or exactly where it is all going.

  What you need to recognise are the possibilities

  And challenges offered by the present moment

  And to embrace them with

  Courage, faith and hope.”

                      Thomas Merton


Robert Pirsig and Metaphysics of Quality

Anthony McWatt explores the philosophical ideas underlying the culture-changing 1970s blockbuster Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

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!

Quality Introduction×158.jpg

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

Quality Metaphysics

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).