This post contains excerpts from Robert Pirsig's book Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals.

The words are all his, the editing choices are all mine, the consequences of reading are all yours.

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Sex and celebrity… there’s something obscene about the whole celebrity feeling. It’s that same feeling you get from sex magazines on newsstands … One part of you wants to get rid of the magazines; one part wants to take a look at them. There’s a conflict of two patterns of quality, social patterns and biological patterns. In celebrity it’s the same … except that the conflict is between social and intellectual patterns!

Celebrity is to social patterns as sex is to biological patterns … It looks and feels like pure Dynamic Quality for a while, but it isn’t … Celebrity is the Dynamic Quality that primitive social patterns once used to organize themselves … an organizing force of the whole social level of evolution. Without this … advanced complex human societies might be impossible.

… When you look back into the very first writing in the history of the western world … Babylon … they’re about celebrity: I, Hammurabi am the big wheel here. I have this many horses … concubines … slaves … oxen … I am one of the greatest … kings there ever was … The Pyramids were celebrity devices. All the statues … palaces … robes … jewels of social authority: those are just celebrity devices. The feathers of the Indian headdress. Children being told they would be struck blind if they ever accidentally looked at the emperor. All the Sirs & Lords & Reverends & Doctors of European address … badges & trophies … promotions up the business ladder … election to ‘high office … feuding and battling for prestige among academics and scientists … Celebrity.

Even a policeman’s uniform is a kind of celebrity … without celebrity nobody would take orders from anybody and there would be no way you could get the society to work … High school was really the place for celebrity … jocks out playing football … pom-pom girls … You can measure the quality of a university by comparing the relative strengths of the celebrity patterns and the intellectual patterns. You never got rid of the celebrities, even at the best universities, but there the intellectuals could ignore them and be in a class by themselves.

… the Metaphysics of Quality says that movement upward from the social mirrors of celebrity is a moral movement from a lower form of evolution to a higher one. People should go that way if they can.

“You can measure the quality of a university by comparing the relative strengths of the celebrity patterns and the intellectual patterns.”

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