April 26th, 2016


zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

I always wanted to read "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values"
by Robert M. Pirsig. I first learned about it in college from a technical writing professor I had, she said it was about a writer who saw beauty and truths of life in the mechanical and technical challenges of the world. Then I tried reading it in my 20s, got about halfway through, got distracted. Picked it up again this year because I'm reading so much that a long book isn't so intimidating.

Truth be told, the book is exhausting. This guy is riding a motorcycle across the country thinking about philosophy and his former life. He's obsessed with philosophy, logic, quality... but gets so far out there on these issues that it loses its connection to the practical world. All I could think was "man, you've got a lot of time on your hands."

amazon reviewers love this book in droves, and say that if you don't "get it" then you're a "tweeter" who should just go back to reading john grisham. so if you want to think that about me, fine. I don't think I have an attention span issue though, I think it's more that I'd like to think about other things and little steps to move forward. This book is about a man living a simple life, sure, life on the road camping out with his son, eating cheese and sausage, appreciating little things, and fixating on a tiny question like "what is quality?" for 50 pages. People who love this book think this is a perfect way to live as a human. But for me, if I was going to shun the complexities of this world and live on the road, I'd do more listening and less personal pondering. I'd simplify so I could help other people and be part of the world, the character of this book is so not-part of the world he goes totally insane and has to be hospitalized and treated with electric shocks.

I mean you ever talk to a guy who's just so out there and ungrounded all you can do is shake your head and say "you should get a girlfriend"? that's how I felt. he's harping on how he challenges university professors of philosophy and just nabbing them because he doesn't like Aristotle or whatever and I just can't find it in myself to care all that much.

To further insult the fans of this book, I'm going to recommend to all my friends here to read quotes from it, not the whole thing. There are lots of great quotes! Yes, I'm reducing it.

“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.”

“You look at where you're going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you've been and a pattern seems to emerge.”

“The real cycle you're working on is a cycle called yourself.”

“You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It's easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally.”

“Did Einstein really mean to state that truth was a function of time? To state that would annihilate the most basic presumption of all science!”

I'm not saying you shouldn't read the book. Just saying, if you see a quote and love, if you think to yourself "wow I wish I could read 20 more pages just on this idea!" well then pick up the book. And if you love it, then come back and thank me for introducing it to you while you hate me for not being smart, patient, or tiresome enough to appreciate it as a whole.

I would have liked more motorcycle maintenance.