Author Robert M. Pirsig, best known for his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Motorcycle Maintenance, passed away at his home in South Berwick, Maine on April 24, 2017 at the age of 88.
His unlikely ‘best seller’ sold over one million copies in its first year – quite a feet for a book that began as an essay, which nobody had any interest in. It was eventually published in 1974, and recounted the tale of a motorcycle trip he had taken with his 12-year-old son Chris during the 1960’s. But it was, and still is so much more than just another tale from the open road; it forces the reader to question their own values and beliefs and sends the brain into a spiral of self-evaluation and enlightenment.
It took Pirsig another 17-years to finish the sequel, Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals, another fine example of his brilliance. During those intervening years, he avoided the spotlight at every turn, and he had good reason to; Pirsig suffered from debilitating anxiety. Despite this condition he had served in the Korean war and traveled the world, refining the unique outlook and moral compass that so many readers have come to appreciate.
Pirsig’s aptitude was evident early on, scoring an IQ of 170 at the tender age of 9 and graduating high school at just 15. He went on to study philosophy and after his service in the Army became a professor at both Montana State College and at the University of Illinois, where he was known for a rather unique teaching style.
Though he is now departed, his works will live on and continue to inspire and encourage others to think deeply about this life.