MOQ Online: Forum

Letter to the Lila Squad

From Robert M Pirsig, October 1998

"Readers of the English paperback of Lila may remember my statement before it was published that while ZMM was like a first child and would probably always be the best loved, this second child, Lila, was the bright one. It might seem controversial or disappointing to some, but if these two books are read 100 years from now, Lila will be regarded as the more important. The work of those on the Internet today makes that prediction seem stronger now than ever.

"Parents have to let go of their children and children have to make it in the world on their own. But when a child enters the world for the first time and, for reasons that have nothing to do with his or her own merits, is shunned by snobs or attacked by bullies, it is very hard for a parent to watch. But then when a group of people come along and, for no reason other than their own generosity, befriend the child and pick it up out of the dust and help it to grow up and get to know others and become a full-fledged accepted and strong member of society -- you can understand what that parent's attitude toward that group is going to be.

"I've kept out of online discussions, because, as I say, children have to make it on their own. But there's another reason that relates to the distinction between philosophers and philosophologists. People sometimes ask who my favorite philosopher is and I answer, just to jog them out of the usual philosophological rut into the idea that real philosophy is not a set of fixed stale systems of ideas but rather a kind of creative activity: 'Abraham Lincoln.' Lincoln was a creative philosopher. My favorite quotation from him was that he liked to take an idea and bound it on the North and bound it on the East and on the South and on the West, just to see how far it goes. Lincoln was a surveyor in his early years and I think he used the word 'bound' in the old surveyor's sense. I see a lanky man with a compass and transit and surveyor's rods and chain pushing his way through the underbrush of the wilderness, very concerned about accuracy in determining where this particular parcel of land stops and the next begins. He knows that if he doesn't get his measurements right, endless disputes and problems will follow later on. If you study Lincoln's speeches closely you'll see that, although he sounds casual enough on the surface, there's a careful surveyor's precision underlying every sentence he writes.

"I sometimes see you as a group of surveyors at the edge of a kind of intellectual wilderness. You're all engaged in a creative activity rather than just sitting back parroting and dissecting old masters. This is real philosophy. I can't tell you where to go because I don't really know for sure myself. And if I did, I probably shouldn't tell you anyway because that might spoil all the Dynamic adventure and excitement this wilderness offers."

Back to the Forum index.