Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Hats off for Pirsig

In the seventies I made half a dozen trips to the west coast and back, ostensibly to find Fame and Fortune, both of whom, for better or worse, successfully eluded me.

On one of those trips I hitch-hiked through Washington, Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota. When I happened upon Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance a couple of years later I realized that I'd travelled many of the roads that Robert Pirsig and his son had explored on the motorcycle trip documented in the book.

Coincidence? Sure, but at the time I thought not. Instead, I felt it gave me a certain mystical affinity with Pirsig.

I subsequently read and re-read Zen every few years. Pirsig mastered the trick of convincing the reader that something could be and not be at the same time. This was years before the Derrida crowd enshrined absence as the highest form of presence, and I truly believed he was onto something. Can't say I ever figured out what it was, but...

Zen is one of the books you have to read if you want to get a handle on the American zeitgeist circa those two or three post WWII decades before the great unravelling of America began in earnest. Ginsberg, Kerouac, Keysey, Burroughs, and McLuhan would pretty much round out your required reading on that file. Ya, they're all dead white guys now, but they were very much "happening" then.

From the first time I read the book I knew some day I'd want to carve those roads on a motorcycle trip with my own son. He's a man now and will have to supply his own motorcycle, but I'm still good to go.

What do you think, dude?

We'd have Robert M. Pirsig watching over us.

1 comment:

  1. Pirsig's Zen is also one of my favourites: read it as required reading in a 4th year course at SFU. Truly wonderful. I think you would also enjoy "Zen and Now; On The Trail Of Robert Pirsig and The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Mark Richardson. It is Richardson's chronicle to reconnect with Pirsig's 1968 "roadtrip" and was published in 2008 to coincide with the trip's 40th anniversary.