Robert M. Pirsig, the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has died at the age of 88. That photo shows him with his son Chris, and the pair are the main protagonists in the book. Like many I was influenced by Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance at the time of its publication in 1974 and I have re-read it many times. The quasi-autobiography is enlightening and thought-provoking, but the little-known codicil is deeply disturbing. In later editions Robert M. Pirsig added an afterword, from which the following is taken:
The receding Ancient Greek perspective of the past ten years has a very dark side: Chris is dead.When I tell friends that I am off again to Muslim-majority Morocco they ask with real concern is it safe? In reply I point out that in the United States each year there are 3.9 murders per 100,000 residents, and in Morocco the figure is 1.0 murders per 100,000 residents.
He was murdered. At about 8:00 P.M. on Saturday, November 17, 1979, in San Francisco, he left the Zen Center, where he was a student, to visit a friend's house a block away on Haight Street.
According to witnesses, a car stopped on the street beside him and two men, black, jumped out. One came from behind him so that Chris couldn't escape, and grabbed his arms. The one in front of him emptied his pockets and found nothing and became angry. He threatened Chris with a large kitchen knife. Chris said something which the witnesses could not hear. His assailant became angrier. Chris then said something that made him even more furious. He jammed the knife into Chris's chest. Then the two jumped into their car and left.
Chris leaned for a time on a parked car, trying to keep from collapsing. After a time he staggered across the street to a lamp at the corner of Haight and Octavia. Then, with his right lung filled with blood from a severed pulmonary artery, he fell to the sidewalk and died.
I go on living, more from force of habit than anything else. At his funeral we learned that he had bought a ticket that morning for England, where my second wife and I lived aboard a sailboat. Then a letter from him arrived which said, strangely, "I never thought I would ever live to see my 23rd birthday."
His twenty-third birthday would have been in two weeks.
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