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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (P.S.) by Robert M. Pirsig – Read And Then Read Again!

October 4, 2011
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (P.S.) by Robert M. Pirsig

In his now classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig brings us a literary chautauqua, a novel that is meant to both entertain and edify. It scores high on both counts.

Phaedrus, our narrator, takes a present-tense cross-country motorcycle trip with his son during which the maintenance of the motorcycle becomes an illustration of how we can unify the cold, rational realm of technology with the warm, imaginative realm of artistry. As in Zen, the trick is to become one with the activity, to engage in it fully, to see and appreciate all details–be it hiking in the woods, penning an essay, or tightening the chain on a motorcycle.

In his autobiographical first novel, Pirsig wrestles both with the ghost of his past and with the most important philosophical questions of the 20th century–why has technology alienated us from our world? what are the limits of rational analysis? if we cant define the good, how can we live it? Unfortunately, while exploring the defects of our philosophical heritage from Socrates and the Sophists to Hume and Kant, Pirsig inexplicably stops at the middle of the 19th century. With the exception of Poincaré, he ignores the more recent philosophers who have tackled his most urgent questions, thinkers such as Peirce, Nietzsche (to whom Phaedrus bears a passing resemblance), Heidegger, Whitehead, Dewey, Sartre, Wittgenstein, and Kuhn. In the end, the narrators claims to originality turn out to be overstated, his reasoning questionable, and his understanding of the history of Western thought sketchy. His solution to a synthesis of the rational and creative by elevating Quality to a metaphysical level simply repeats the mistakes of the premodern philosophers. But in contrast to most other philosophers, Pirsig writes a compelling story. And he is a true innovator in his attempt to popularize a reconciliation of Eastern mindfulness and nonrationalism with Western subject/object dualism. The magic of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance turns out to lie not in the answers it gives, but in the questions it raises and the way it raises them. Like a cross between The Razors Edge and Sophies World, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance takes us into the high country of the mind and opens our eyes to vistas of possibility. –Brian Bruya

Read And Then Read Again!
I first read this masterpiece of fiction when I was fifteen, I remember clearly it was 1980 and I spent days in my room trying to understand the big words and attempting to figure out all the characters Pirsig would reference, Kant, Hume, Poincare, and the ancient Greeks. Since we were well before a simple Wikipedia search, it would be years before I would hear most of their names again. What I do remember very clearly is that when I emerged from my room I knew I was going to college to become a Mechanical Engineer. I had long since forgotten why I came to that conclusion until I relived my young experience on page 176 just a few days ago. It was my third reading of this great book.

My second reading came in 1992, I was 28. In those days I was brash, arrogant, and full of gumption, as Pirsig would call it. I knew a lot more about philosophy and theology and engineering then I did my first time through. I also owned a motorcycle and had completed an active duty tour in the military. I was working as a systems engineer for the DoD and was in school working on my second Master’s degree. The book still made sense… a lot of sense. At that point I knew it had nothing to do with Zen and even less to do with motorcycle maintenance, but Pirsig has always told us that up front.

Fast forward sixteen years…a family, a company, a new career, a fresh read. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is still every bit the masterpiece it was back in 1974. But then what is it about – if it’s not about Zen or art of motorcycle maintenance? Certainly much has been written over the past four decades attempting to define exactly what Pirsig was trying to tell us. No need for that. Read the book, Pirsig will tell you. No matter what you may hear, no matter what you may think, this book defines for us that which can never be expressed through words and rational thought alone. It must be experienced. Experience is the life changer, not thoughts or deeds. Experience this book and understand why.

For More 5 Star Reviews and The Lowest Price Visit:
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (P.S.) by Robert M. Pirsig

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