October 18, 2016
— Calvin Luther Martin, PhD
Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values. The book was a classic when I was a young man. Pirsig published it in 1974 — after 121 publishers had rejected it. It sold over 5 million copies.
One hundred twenty-one publishers were pretty darn embarrassed.
It was Pirsig who introduced me to bikers and the novel idea that they may have something worthwhile to say about things like quality and gumption. When I moved from Santa Fe to Malone and met a motorcycle aficionado named Mike Fournier, I knew this was the guy Pirsig had in mind — the kind who didn’t “sit around dissipating and stewing about things,” a man “at the front of the train of his own awareness, watching to see what’s up the track and meeting it when it comes.”
For years I’ve been trying to persuade Mike to start a political blog — with quality and gumption as his lodestar. He finally took my advice. Click here.
I urge you to read it. Regularly. As I now do.
Don’t work yourself into hysterics over whether you agree with him. Instead, listen between the lines for that distinctive Harley rumble of quality and gumption (click above) — and let him challenge your relationship to the same principles. Every essay Mike writes challenges me.
If America goes to hell in a handbasket someday, it will be because we abdicated quality and gumption. This includes the political sphere. Read the debates between political opponents and policy-makers in the early years of the republic. You can’t help but notice the quality and gumption of all the participants. George Washington. Alexander Hamilton. Benjamin Franklin. Thomas Jefferson. James Madison. John Adams. Aaron Burr. The list is lengthy. I’m not saying they were always right; I’m saying each of them knew that “if you’re going to repair a motorcycle” or create a new nation, “an adequate supply of gumption is the first and most important tool. If you haven’t got that you might as well gather up all the other tools and put them away, because they won’t do you any good.”