Robert Pirsig is off to his next long ride over the horizon, as reported in the New York Times.
I was finishing up a master's thesis and writing my Ph.D. proposals when a colleague, Dr. Marty Fisk, also working in Don Lindsley's Experimental Petrology Lab, suggested I read Pirsig's book as a great explanation of the scientific method. It was a great description, as was Pirsig's description of the inner struggles he had with finding himself after electroshock therapy and his single-minded passion of understanding Quality.
“The Buddha, the Godhead,” Pirsig writes, “resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower.”
I had my own brain dysfunction back then, in part due to being launched over a Volkswagen Beetle, sans bicycle helmet, by a wayward motorist and finding myself unable to know whether I was looking at equations upside down or right-side up. There were preexisting conditions as well. So perhaps reading Pirsig's novel was therapy for me as I rewired my mental facilities and started a new dissertation topic. All the while noting, as I do now, that the scientific method is present as Pretty Damn Good Guidance whether one is studying rocks, thinking about transportation planning, unraveling the secrets driving one's own mental demons, or tearing down a motorcycle engine. I still have Pirsig's book and am sorry to see him check out. Way smarter than me and a great role model.