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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The drift away from European social values worked all right at first, and the first generation of the Victorians, benefiting from ingrained Victorian social habits seem to have been enormously liberated intellectually by the new freedom. But with the second generation … problems began to emerge. Indian values are all right for an Indian style of life, but they don’t work so well in a complex technological society … An upbringing that allows the child to grow ‘naturally’ in the Indian fashion does not … guarantee the finest sort of urban adjustment.

… The world was no doubt in better shape intellectually and technologically but … the ‘quality’ of it was not good. There was no way you could say why this quality was no good. You just felt it … He remembered seeing The Glass Menagerie in which one edge of the stage had an arrow shaped neon sign flashing on and off … beneath the arrow was the word ‘PARADISE’, also flashing


But the Paradise was always somewhere pointed to, always somewhere else … Paradise was always at the end of some intellectual, technological ride, but you knew that when you got there paradise wouldn’t be there either.

… You had to be a rebel without a cause. The intellectuals had preempted all the causes. Causes were to the 20th century intellectuals as manners had been to Victorians … They had everything figured out … ‘pursuit of happiness’ seemed to have become like the pursuit of some scientifically created mechanical rabbit that moves ahead at whatever speed it is being pursued. If you ever did catch it for a few moments it had a peculiar synthetic, technological taste that made the pursuit seem senseless.

Everyone seemed to be guided by an ‘objective’, ’scientific’ view of life that told each person that his essential self is his evolved material body. Ideas and societies are a component of brains, not the other way around. No two brains can merge physically, and therefore no two people can ever really communicate except … [for] sending messages back and forth.

A scientific, intellectual culture had become a culture of millions of isolated people living and dying in … psychic solitary confinement, unable to talk to one another, really, and unable to judge one another because scientifically speaking it is impossible to do so. Each individual in his cell of isolation was told that no matter how hard he tried … his whole life is that of an animal that lives & dies … He could invent moral goals for himself, but they are just artificial inventions. Scientifically speaking he has no goals.

Sometime after the 20’s a secret loneliness, so penetrating and so encompassing that we are only beginning to realize the extent of it, descended upon the land. This scientific, psychiatric isolation and futility had become a far worse prison … than … Victorian ‘virtue’. They had lost some of their realness … living in some kind of movie saying …


“Paradise was always at the end of some intellectual, technological ride, but you knew that when you got there paradise wouldn’t be there either.”

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