These EYES!. That is the terror of it. These gloved hands I now look at, steering the motorcycle down the road, were once his! And if you can understand the feeling that comes from that, then you can understand real fear ... the fear that comes from knowing there is nowhere you can possibly run.

     Oh, yes, I did get it.
     My first encounter with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance scared me almost witless.
Not only was it a treatise on values and excellence, it was a devastating ghost story, and it mirrored much of my own experience.
     So the death yesterday of its author, Robert M. Pirsig, shocked me into almost insensibility. Oh, not that he died: everyone does that, sooner or later, and he was 88, after all.  
     No, it was the sudden shudder of remembering what the book meant to me all those many years ago. Before you ask, I never had electro-shock therapy, nor was I under psychiatric care, although perhaps I should have been.
     About that, I'm grateful.
     What was done to Pirsig was essentially personality extinction. Years later, I remember listening to a CBC interview with the man, in which he broke down and cried at the memory of it all.
     It was more about recognizing something I hadn't known existed outside of my own head; this dual self, the black horse and the white horse, struggling to find some kind of peace.
     I've read and re-read Zen over the years, even took it into the hospital with me last year when I had cancer surgery. I knew I probably would be too doped up to tackle it in there (and I was), but it it is sort of a talisman for me. It meant I could get through this.
     I picked up my surviving copy of the book this afternoon, searching for the quote above. I figured I'd have a rough time finding it. Instead, it fell open to almost the exact page I wanted.
     Spooky? Yes, but I did say it was a ghost story, and perhaps the best I've ever read.
     And I'm still not really getting down to what I mean here. Maybe I don't want to. Like Pirsig, I know I'm not what I was back then, and like him, I'm mostly happy about that.
     But I lost something along the way. Maybe it had value, maybe it didn't. I just know it's no longer there.
     He'd have understood.

And what is good, Phaedrus,
And what is not good,
Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?

Views: 254

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on April 25, 2017 at 1:40pm


Comment by alsoknownas on April 25, 2017 at 2:44pm

Thanks. Will head to the library soon.

Never got around to this but will based on your attachment.

Comment by Boanerges on April 25, 2017 at 2:45pm

Thanks, Jon, very much.

Comment by M. C. Sears on April 25, 2017 at 3:25pm

I remember that CBC interview, reading your post I have this need to reread the book.  These words by RMP always held great meaning "the place to improve the world is first in one's own heart, head, hands and then work outward from there."

Comment by koshersalaami on April 25, 2017 at 4:13pm

I read it. Phaedrus was terribly interesting. If I remember correctly, an actual Sophist. He worshipped Quality. Pirsig's loss was immense.

Comment by Token on April 25, 2017 at 9:49pm

had not heard of his death, would have thought it might be one of those events that  people feel as a disturbance in the "force". ZAMM was/is a pivotal book for me as well, it prompted me to attempt a Chatauqua on Open Salon early on in my blogging career. I moved it here ( The Art of Reason – a “pro spectus” ) simply as an archive of a failed attempt at communication. It simply proved impossible to keep any discussion going amidst all the people who simply wanted to drive by and drop off stink bombs. I had more success with it on a different, private level among my friends and  the people that they introduced to it, but hadn't thought about it in years.

The book very much influenced me, as you say, it was a revelation to read words that so echoed my own thoughts. Thank you for posting this.

Comment by Token on April 25, 2017 at 9:51pm

PS If you liked ZAMM, I reccomend you also read the works of Douglas Hofstader and james Branch Cabell.

Comment by Steel Breeze on April 26, 2017 at 5:52am


Comment by Boanerges on April 26, 2017 at 7:08am

AKA, it really is an interesting read, if only for delving into the meaning of quality. You'll enjoy it, I should think.

Yep, MC, it was a one-off (didn't enjoy its sequel nearly as much, although it was OK). Hard to believe that more than 120 publishers turned it down. That interview was just so sad.

Kosh, he redefined Sophist for me. I'd always taken it as a pejorative, which it usually is. Pirsig was a good -- if flawed -- man. Like all of us.

Thanks for the recommendation, Token. Sorry to hear (although not really surprised) that serious efforts aren't taken all that seriously, even here. I tried one time to introduce Marshall McLuhan on a similar forum and was treated to a deafening silence.

Thanks, Steel.

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on April 26, 2017 at 7:21am

Never read it, but on your recommendation I'm ordering the book. (Not the E version for my iPad, the BOOK.  Sounds like one of those you need a real book to read, reread, contemplate and rereread.)


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