Sunday, May 12

North American Journeys, 9

I see we are at the left turn onto US 12 and John has pulled up for gas. I pull up beside him.
     The thermometer by the door of the station reads 92 degrees. "Going to be another rough one today," I say.
     When the tanks are filled, we head across the street into a restaurant for coffee. Chris, of course, is hungry.
     I tell him I've been waiting for that. I tell him he eats with the rest of us or not at all. Not angrily. Just matter-of-factly. He's reproachful but sees how it's going to be.
     I catch a fleeting look of relief from Sylvia. Evidently she thought this was going to be a continuous problem.
     When we have finished the coffee and are outside again the heat is so ferocious we move off on the cycles as fact as possible. Again there is that momentary coolness, but it disappears. The sun makes the burned grass and sand so bright I have to squint to cut down glare. This US 12 is an old, bad highway. The broken concrete is tar-patched and bumpy. Road signs indicate detours ahead. On either side of the road are occasional work sheds and shacks and roadside stands that have accumulated through the years. The traffic is heavy now. I'm just as happy to be thinking about the rational, analytical, classical world of Phaedrus.
     His kind of rationality has been used since antiquity to remove oneself from the tedium and depression of one's immediate surroundings. What makes it hard to see is that where once it was used to get away from it all, the escape has been so successful that now it is the "it all" that the romantics are trying to escape. What makes his world so hard to see clearly is not its strangeness but its usualness. Familiarity can blind you too.

--Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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