Robert M. Pirsig

Robert M.
Pirsig
1928

American Writer and Philosopher best known for his book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values" and "Lila: An Inquiry into Morals"

Author Quotes

You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you?re always in a compartment, and because you?re used to it you don?t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You?re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On a cycle the frame is gone. You?re completely in contact with it all. You?re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it?s right there, so blurred you can?t focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness.

When it is known that Plato put his own words in Socrates' mouth (Aristotle says this) there should be no reason to doubt that he could have put his own words into other mouths too.

You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It's easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally.

When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a Religion.

You?ve got to live right, too. It?s the way you live that predisposes you to avoid the traps and see the right facts. You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It?s easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally. That?s the way all the experts do it. The making of a painting or the fixing of a motorcycle isn?t separate from the rest of your existence. If you?re a sloppy thinker the six days of the week you aren?t working on your machine, what trap avoidance, what gimmicks, can make you all of a sudden sharp on the seventh? It all goes together... The real cycle you're working in is a cycle called yourself. The machine that appears to be out there and the person that appears to be in here are not two separate things. They grow toward Quality or fall away from Quality together.

When one person suffers from the delusion, it is called poreme?eno??u mind. When many people suffer from the delusion, it is called religion.

Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past.

When somebody goes outside the cultural norms, the culture has to protect itself.

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. Like Robinson Crusoe's discovery of footprints on the sand.

When you look directly at an insane man all you see is a reflection of your own knowledge that he?s insane, which is not to see him at all. To see him you must see what he saw and when you are trying to see the vision of an insane man, an oblique route is the only way to come at it.

Who really can face the future? All you can do is project from the past, even when the past shows that such projections are often wrong. And who really can forget the past? What else is there to know?

Who really can forget the past? What else is there to know?

Whole community of millions of living things living out their lives in a kind of benign continuum.

Why destroy aret‚? And no sooner had he asked the question than the answer came to him. Plato hadn't tried to destroy aret‚. He had encapsulated it; made a permanent, fixed Idea out of it; had converted it to a rigid, immobile Immortal Truth. He made aret‚ the Good, the highest form, the highest Idea of all. It was subordinate only to Truth itself, in a synthesis of all that had gone before.

Working on a motorcycle, working well, caring, is to become part of a process, to achieve an inner peace of mind. The motorcycle is primarily a mental phenomenon.

Yah-da, yah-da, yah-da, yah-da, yah, carburetor, gear ratio, compression, yah-da-yah, piston, plugs, intake, yah-da-yah, on and on and on. That is the romantic face of the classic mode. Dull, awkward and ugly. Few romantics get beyond that point.

You are never dedicated to something that you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kind of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.

You have all these fragments, like pieces of a puzzle, and you can place them together into large groups, but the groups don't go together no matter how you try, and then suddenly you get one fragment and it fits two different groups and then suddenly the two great groups are one. The relation of the mythos to insanity. That's a key fragment. I doubt whether anyone ever said that before. Insanity is the terra incognita surrounding the mythos. And he knew! He knew the Quality he talked about lay outside the mythos.

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. And if you project forward from that pattern, then sometimes you can come up with something.

The Professor of Philosophy has made a mistake. He's wasted his disciplinary authority on an innocent student while Ph‘drus, the guilty one, the hostile one, is still at large. And getting larger and larger. Since he has asked no questions there is now no way to cut him down. And now that he sees how the questions will be answered he's certainly not about to ask them. The innocent student stares down at the table, face red, hands shrouding his eyes. His shame becomes Ph‘drus' anger. In all his classes he never once talked to a student like that. So that's how they teach classics at the University of Chicago. Ph‘drus knows the Professor of Philosophy now. But the Professor of Philosophy doesn't know Ph‘drus.

The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn't any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it's right. If it disturbs you it's wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed. The test of the machine's always your own mind. There isn't any other test.

There's this primary America of freeways and jet flights and TV and movie spectaculars, and people caught up in this primary America seem to go through huge portions of their lives without much consciousness of what immediately surrounds them. The media have convinced them that what's right around them is unimportant. And that's why they're lonely.

Trials never end, of course. Unhappiness and misfortune are bound to occur as long as people live, but there is a feeling now, that was not here before, and is not just on the surface of things, but penetrates all the way through: We've won it. It's going to get better now. You can sort of tell these things.

What is in mind is a sort of Chautauqua...that's the only name I can think of for it...like the traveling tent-show Chautauquas that used to move across America, this America, the one that we are now in, an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer. The Chautauquas were pushed aside by faster-paced radio, movies and TV, and it seems to me the change was not entirely an improvement. Perhaps because of these changes the stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep. The old channels cannot contain it and in its search for new ones there seems to be growing havoc and destruction along its banks. In this Chautauqua I would like not to cut any new channels of consciousness but simply dig deeper into old ones that have become silted in with the debris of thoughts grown stale and platitudes too often repeated. What's new? is an interesting and broadening eternal question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endless parade of trivia and fashion, the silt of tomorrow. I would like, instead, to be concerned with the question What is best?, a question which cuts deeply rather than broadly, a question whose answers tend to move the silt downstream. There are eras of human history in which the channels of thought have been too deeply cut and no change was possible, and nothing new ever happened, and best was a matter of dogma, but that is not the situation now. Now the stream of our common consciousness seems to be obliterating its own banks, losing its central direction and purpose, flooding the lowlands, disconnecting and isolating the highlands and to no particular purpose other than the wasteful fulfillment of its own internal momentum. Some channel deepening seems called for.

When are we going to get going? Chris says. What's your hurry? I ask. I just want to get going. There's nothing up ahead that's any better than it is right here.

Author Picture
First Name
Robert M.
Last Name
Pirsig
Birth Date
1928
Bio

American Writer and Philosopher best known for his book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values" and "Lila: An Inquiry into Morals"