Posted: Friday, November 30, 2012 5:47:11 PM
After I’d stared for several minutes, the strips of bus seat-fabric burned into my eyes. The shuttle bus hit a bump on the road. My mouth was slightly open, my fingers held onto the book I’d brought for the long trip—the afore-mentioned book of Pirsig’s—and I was engrossed in thought.
Around that time, I was obsessed with Eastern philosophy and the Romantic view of history as a cyclical journey of pure imagination. (The only western philosophy I’d even read was The Fountainhead.) My interest in the East led me mainly to Zen, so the title caught my eye in the bookstore.
I was thus very surprised when I read the first chapter of Pirsig’s novel and found that it centered on a narrative about a man and his son. As I read, I gradually grew more annoyed with the narrator, a shallow character detached from even his oldest friends. Then I discovered Phaedrus.
This character works in the novel as a teacher of rhetoric in a small college and develops there his theories of Romantic and Classical world-views. As I read of how the narrator viewed the world, I slowly realized that I wasn’t quite as left-brained as I’d thought—even Pirgig’s mechanical imagery seemed to reinforce the idea that I was a Classicalist. When he described a person, I was bored by the personalities presented, the life stories that were so bleak—abstract philosophy, meanwhile, enraptured me.
I moved with the story’s bits of philosophic monologue, and reexamined each facet of my existence—I eventually found that I was logical, yet imaginative, just like Phaedrus.
I was overjoyed, and bemused, when I shared Phaedrus’s realization near the end of the book. Through my reading, I had slowly become unsure of my previous perspectives on life—if I was so illogical in the past, could there be any hope for a world of reason for myself in the present, or even the future? There would always be a segment of my beliefs devoted to the idea that untempered imagination was the greatest force in the universe, and, to my mind, this would always be the opposite of the reason I’d come to have. However, as I read of Phaedrus discovering a similarity between Ancient Greek philosophy and Taoism, I thought back to my own reading. Pirsig’s quotes from Tao Te Ching pointed towards quotes from Ayn Rand, which led me back to my own thoughts. A grand puzzle came together, as it did for Phaedrus, and I realized that the two views of the world had to be reconciled, to coexist in any mind. When I reached the book’s conclusion that all philosophers strive for this ideal, I turned back to the cover and looked at the insignia of a wrench and a lotus flower embossed there. This book had helped to combine the two things, and so would I.