NPR reports that Robert M Pirsig, the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintanence and Lila: An Inquiry into Morals has died at age 88.
Zen was eye opening and life changing, each time I read it. Lila felt like a work of obligation. While Lila had moments where the third person was used more powerfully than I had ever encountered it before, on the whole I found to book maddening. The quickest way to describe it is the difference between Socrates and Plato. In fact I would Liken Zen to the Apology and Lila to the Republic in regard to their approach to establishing ideas. I was over 10% younger than I am now when I read it and think I might take a gentler view should I read it again.
He was the first person to introduce me to the non-rational foundations of our value systems, every single one. I am grateful for this.
I hope he found the Quality he was looking for.
Rest In Peace Mr. Pirsig.
I picked this up used for $8.95. It is a 1919 printing with a copyright of 1906, 1907. It is a nicely balanced discussion of the gear, and its use, needed at camp and on the trail. Stewart Edward White looks at equipment for traveling by canoe, horseback, and on foot. I find the discussion of gear for horseback directly applicable to loading up a car or truck to go camping.
The author clearly has a good amount of experience in the wilderness. His father was a lumber millionaire (in the 19th century). I mention this because the impression that I get from his tone is that he recommends equipment not based on price but utility. He seems to have had the funds to use whatever gear he wanted and learned what was important and what should not be brought along. The voice of experience is unmistakable.
What I really like about this book is that it does not promote some contrived notion of self sufficiency. He looks at what he has found to be necessary to work in the outdoors in comfort, after a fashion.
If I had read this book ten years ago I would have found it instructive and quaint. Ten years ago it was all about micro-fibers and other synthetics while White extolls the virtues of wool and other natural fibers. He goes so far as to advocate using wool undergarments. Today the virtues of wool have re-emerged. The most experienced outdoor enthusiast I know wears wool for undergarments on the trail. A new technology emerges and becomes trendy and fashionable but time shows what it is really good for. So reading this book now is a fascinating experience. It is remarkably relevant to outdoor activity today.
As fun and instructive as White’s discussion of gear is, what really struck me the most was his succinct and well considered discussion of what we would today call mindset. The first two chapters, The Wilderness Traveler and Common Sense in the Wilderness, are both entertaining and instructive. They read to me like scripture i.e. discussion of events long past that contain perpetually relevant and useful truth.
This is a good book. There are honest to goodness pearls of wisdom distributed consistently through every chapter. White writes with a unique blend of authority and humility. One is quite confident that if anything were to be shown to him as superior to what he has written he would adopt it without hesitation.
If you are unable to find an old copy or are disinclined to buy a new one you can find the whole text, with diagrams, courtesy of Project Gutenberg here:
Camp and Trail by Stewart Edward White
The Wilderness Traveler
Common Sense in the Wilderness
Personal Equipment (Continued)
The Cook Outfit
Horses, Mules, Burros
Index (Yes, it really has an index!)