Technically, you don’t take a trip. It takes you.
If you could take a trip, you could also put it back when you were done with it.
But you can’t.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about Robert and Chris and the trip they took.
It was a 1968 trip
from Minneapolis to San Francisco
on a 1964 Honda Superhawk
with Chris riding on the back
because he was only 11 years old.
When that trip was over, Robert remembered a lot of things that never really happened. And in 1974 those memories became Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the best-selling philosophy book ever written. It stayed near the top of the best-seller lists for more than a decade.
I agree with a lot of what Robert wrote.
But a little of what he wrote makes me wonder if he was crazy.
We’ll talk more about that later.
These are the things Robert wrote that I agree with:
“You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.”
“The real purpose of the scientific method is to make sure nature hasn’t misled you into thinking you know something you actually don’t know.”
“It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top.”
“The more you look, the more you see.”
“First you get the feeling, then you figure out why.”
“We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it’s all gone.”
“When you live in the shadow of insanity, the appearance of another mind that thinks and talks as yours does is something close to a blessed event.”
I like that last statement for 2 reasons. (1.) “The appearance of another mind that thinks and talks as yours does” is sort of why Wizard Academy exists. (2.) Is it just my imagination, or have you noticed that the shadow of insanity (and not the good kind of insanity) seems to be growing wider and darker across our land? I’m seeing and hearing things today that would have been unthinkable 10 years ago.
One last quote from the book:
“But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.”
I suppose that’s what worries me most about the dark shadow of insanity spreading across our land. If we remove the people who are casting that shadow – but we don’t change the patterns of thought that elevated them – we’ll replace those people with more just like them.
I said earlier that we’d talk about Robert being a little bit crazy.
Robert Pirsig was treated with electroconvulsive therapy on numerous occasions when he was institutionalized with paranoid schizophrenia and clinical depression between 1961 and 1963. He was 35 when he got out. His son Chris was 6. They began their road trip 5 years later.
At its heart, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is an exploration of the underlying belief systems of Western culture. In his foreword to that book, Robert told readers that despite its title, the book should “in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice.”
He added, “It’s not very factual on motorcycles either.”
Yes, Robert went crazy for a while.
But then he got over it.
Perhaps we will, too.
Roy H. Williams
PS – The photo at the top of the page is Robert and Chris Pirsig on their trip in 1968. Sadly, Robert Pirsig died in April, 2017 at the age of 89. Sadder still, his son Chris was fatally stabbed in a 1979 mugging outside the San Francisco Zen Center, at the age of 22.
Brian Harman works in supply-chain management for a large multi-national pharmaceutical company. He relies on storytelling and humor with a tiny splash of vulgarity to teach lousy business leaders how to excel in the art of TRUE leadership. Brian recently recruited family and friends to help him write, publish, and promote a book. His hope is to inspire a new generation of leaders who haven’t learned all the bad habits of today’s owners and bosses. Because Brian’s book uses a mild expletive in its title, the ever-gracious roving reporter Rotbart has asked us not to say it. But if you go to MondayMorningRadio.com, you can hear Brian Harman say it. It made me laugh. I’ll bet it makes you laugh, too. – Indy Beagle