WWSP's "The Alternate Boot!"

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Powerful, Influential - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Robert Pirsig has died.

Pirsig's book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," was certainly one of the foundational, formative books in my life. No doubt. I can easily say that it is one of the books that "changed my life." It came to me at a very impressionable time.

I was a Searcher. Searching. A perfect reader.

I can see the young me, hitch-hiking from Chicago to San Diego with a copy of Pirsig's book buried deep in my back-pack, deep in my consciousness. Looking for something.

I was too aware of my own clunkiness, didn't trust myself driving a motorcycle, plus, I was pretty poor, I think I had about $100 in my shoe as I stood on a corner trying to flag down a ride. 

I have read the book many times. It always engages on many levels. It's always a bit daunting, haunting, and a bit out of my grasp. Weighty and profound things, the essence of things, hung on a simple story, a journey, a father and son on a motorcycle trip.

Body & Spirit. Reason & Passion. Ideas & Action. Dualities. Finding Zen in the day to day, in a motorcycle engine, in a life-well lived. Zen - not meditating on a mountain, but right here, right now in the common, mundane, real world. Reason in the Madness.

It propelled me on an intellectual journey, a spiritual journey, led me to the many doors of Zen and meditation, and alternative lifestyles. I was propelled out into the world, and at the same time propelled inward. Life as a search, as a journey. That has defined how I have thought of my life, and how I have lived my life ever since.

Robert Pirsig's journey in a weird way was my journey too. And of course, I was just one of many. As Pirsig explains it: 
The near-cult popularity of “Zen,” though, puzzled him for years before he came up with a theory. Writing in an afterword to the 10th-anniversary edition in 1984, he used a Swedish word (it was his mother’s native language) to describe the phenomenon. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” he wrote, was a “kulturbarer,” or culture-bearer.

A culture-bearing book is not necessarily a great book, he said. It does not change the culture. It simply heralds a change already underway. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” an indictment of slavery published before the Civil War, was a culture-bearing book, he said.

“I was just telling my own story,” he said in a short interview posted on his website. He had never intended to make a splash.

“I expressed what I thought were my prime thoughts,” he added, “and they turned out to be the prime thoughts of everybody else.”

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