Robert M. Pirsig, who inspired generations to road trip across America with his “novelistic autobigraphy,” Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, died Monday at the age of 88.
Here’s the book:
College might be when many people first read this book. I met a few people who read it as part of a course. In my case, I stumbled on that book when I was 19. The title was intriguing, so I bought it. No one prepared me for it. Wow, what a mind-blowing book. “Changed my life” is a cliche, but in this case, it’s true. It’s fair to say that after reading this book, I was inspired to go think about things differently, try different things, go different places, think different thoughts. That book really did change my life.
The book didn’t inspire me to take a cross-country motorcycle trip, but I was inspired to go on another kind of journey. The concepts in philosophy that this book introduced me to inspired me to take a philosophy class the next year. Another milestone in my life.
The comedian Steve Martin had a throwaway line in his stand-up routine from the 1970s. It went something like: “in philosophy class, you learn just enough to screw you up for the rest of your life.”
He was right, minus the hyperbole. My small taste of philosophy didn’t screw me up, but it did expose me to some ways of looking at the world that now, more than 30 years later, still resonate with me.
And I have Persig’s book to thank for that.
Rest in peace, Mr. Persig. Your book taught me to look for, and to value, Quality in the world. Thanks for sharing your inquiry into values. My world is bigger because of the ideas that you exposed me to.