“And now I see what the glass door is. It is the door of a coffin-mine. Not a coffin, a sarcophagus. I am in an enormous vault, dead, and they are paying their last respects.” (Pirsig, Zen)
We are observers to our past, and through time the memory of our history changes as we change. When Robert M. Pirsig set out on his motorcycle journey across America with his son, Chris, and a couple, John and Sylvia, he wasn’t interested in the destination, but in the discovery along the road. He was investigating the history of someone who he once was; someone he had forgotten and was no longer, Phaedrus; his severed personality. Seeing everything around him; revisiting his past, Pirsig found his memory of who he once was. And as he investigated deeper and deeper he learned of who Phaedrus was to the people he once knew, and of his words that matched each terrain, recalling him of Phaedrus’ studies and later, of his insanity.
I am searching for shades of myself, investigating my past, and finding captions that speak for each moment I had forgotten. Instead of a motorcycle, I use my feet for this journey; searching the terrain that surrounds me for my past self that has so rapidly changed over the course of half decade. And like the glass chamber that filled the dream of Phaedrus, I am only an observer to my history; completely powerless to influence change. But it is our history that makes who we are today, and it is who we are today that makes who we are tomorrow. Through my own investigation, I am reading old journal entries, and biographical fiction I wrote in different times of my life. My words will find themselves on windows of places that hold a certain memory, and after they are documented they will remain as mementos to remind me of this act as well as to engage to others who pass by. The sceneries behind these windows will be out of focus like the memory of the captions have faded through time, becoming less clear and less real. I was searching for my history, and I was learning who I was through my past, but I discovered my future in the process as I started a history with someone that was right in front of me this whole time.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig, 1974, excerpts from Chapter 23
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