Today the existence of the ‘real university’ collided – bang – with the physical university. I feel a bit burnt and disappointed – as it should be – for this world is more of the pragmatic and contingent stuff: ‘this must be done, for it is the right way’. Somewhere along the way we lose the dream, the idealism, and then comes a day when the aesthetic dies too. At that point it is okay to be irritated – for that is a plaintive cry ‘better things are possible’. But then that would be bringing emotion into the workplace – ‘how wrong is that’!
Time for me to go back to Pirsig, Schmier and the fundamentals of a place of learning.
At that time, he recalls, in his early thirties, he was so full of anxiety that he would often be physically sick before each class he taught. He used his students to help him discover some of the ideas that make up what he calls the ‘metaphysics of quality’ in his books, the ideas that led him to believe that he had bridged the chasm between Eastern and Western thought. No two classes were the same. He made his students crazy by refusing to grade them, then he had them grade each other. He suggests that by the end of each term they were so euphoric that if he had told them to jump out of the window they would have done. The president of the university gave a speech, and he contradicted him in the middle of it by shouting: ‘This school has no quality.’ He saw clearly how American society was disconnected from life and he believed he could help it connect. He was reading Kerouac, and trying to live in truth.