Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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DevilsAdvocate
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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 28 Jun 2011, 12:08

This book was mentioned in a thread about the Celestine Prophecy so I thought it could use a separate topic of its own. It's been several years since I read it but basically it is about a man describing a long road trip from Minnesota to the West Coast with his son while mixing in his thoughts on philosophy such as that he thought Western philosophy was "square" compared to the superior wisdom of the East. As far as I can tell, it sounded like he was trying to figure out where exactly Aristotle, Kant, and others went wrong so he could do a better job of sorting everything out himself.

After reading it, the general impression I got from it was that it mostly showed that sometimes people think too much for their own good because it seemed like the main character put all this thought into splitting hairs but I wasn't convinced that he was really any better off at the end of this journey than if he hadn't ever started on it in terms of overall happiness and quality of life. In real life, it sounds like Robert Pirsig was so obsessed with trying to answer these philosophical questions that he actually had a nervous breakdown to the point that he was hospitalized and his wife left him. Supposedly this book was rejected by more publishers than any other bestseller so I guess Pirsig must have believed he was really onto something to not give up with this book after seeing this general lack of interest at first. I will say the book was very different from anything else I have read so far; I have heard it compared to Thoreau's Walden but I don't really see that many similarities between the two.
"Truth is what works." - William James

doug
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Re: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Post by doug » 28 Jun 2011, 12:52

I will simply repeat that this is one of my all-time favorite books, and not just because I am a tinkerer and happen to like motorcycles. Part of my fascination with the book was due to the fact that the author (and his son) clearly had to deal with depression, in one form or another. In my experience, this is often an attribute of those that who think original thoughts. The author's obsession with 'Quality', was, for me, just another example of what I have been seeing over and over as I read books that inspire me -- someone pointing to the 'truth' as best as they can. And even though their various descriptions are all different, they are oddly consistent. Again, I liked it -- a lot.
The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also. -- Mark Twain

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Re: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 28 Jun 2011, 13:53

doug wrote:I will simply repeat that this is one of my all-time favorite books, and not just because I am a tinkerer and happen to like motorcycles. Part of my fascination with the book was due to the fact that the author (and his son) clearly had to deal with depression, in one form or another. In my experience, this is often an attribute of those that who think original thoughts. The author's obsession with 'Quality', was, for me, just another example of what I have been seeing over and over as I read books that inspire me -- someone pointing to the 'truth' as best as they can. And even though their various descriptions are all different, they are oddly consistent. Again, I liked it -- a lot.
I'm not saying Pirsig was necessarily wrong about some of his conclusions, I just thought it was unfortunate that he needed to hit rock bottom this way when it seems like many people already subconsciously apply the general idea of what he was getting at much of the time anyway without really needing to understand or explain why in great detail. It didn't sound to me like Pirsig was trying to suggest that others should go down the same rabbit hole he did, in fact some parts of the book actually talked about deliberately avoiding some of this kind of thinking simply for the sake of peace and sanity as if he had learned his lesson the hard way.
"Truth is what works." - William James

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Re: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Post by Thoreau » 29 Jun 2011, 07:55

I read it about 1980 for a philosophy class in college. My superficial take on something I read over 30 years ago is that he was flat out nuts.
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” Henry David Thoreau

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DevilsAdvocate
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Re: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 29 Jun 2011, 09:52

Thoreau wrote:I read it about 1980 for a philosophy class in college. My superficial take on something I read over 30 years ago is that he was flat out nuts.
I think that's a big part of the book's popular appeal; Pirsig's oddity makes some people want to try to figure out what in the world he was talking about. You start to wonder what exactly a Chautauqua is and who this mysterious Phaedrus character is because you've never heard of anything like this before. It all serves the purpose of generating some curiosity and gives the impression that maybe Pirsig knows something you don't enough for people to finish reading the book when many of them probably wouldn't read the whole thing if it presented some of these ideas in more of a straightforward and easily understandable way.
"Truth is what works." - William James

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PiperAlpha
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Re: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Post by PiperAlpha » 29 Jun 2011, 21:09

Good review, DA. I find things like this interesting when they are different and even a little off-base. I find it makes me think of things differently. I will have to check it out.
“As individually and collectively we increase our knowledge, acceptance, and application of gospel principles, we become less dependent on Church programs. Our lives become gospel centered.”
Elder Ronald E. Poelman, General Conference Oct 1984

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Re: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 30 Jun 2011, 12:05

PiperAlpha wrote:Good review, DA. I find things like this interesting when they are different and even a little off-base. I find it makes me think of things differently. I will have to check it out.
For some people this book might not be very interesting especially if they don't care much for philosophy or travelogues. Personally I feel like I have above average patience for this kind of thing but even for me it was somewhat tedious to read through. However, it seems like it developed a cult following for some reason and some people really like it. For example, it sounds like former Lakers and Bulls coach Phil Jackson was a big fan of this book and that's one reason he ended up with the "Zen Master" knick-name.
"Truth is what works." - William James

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Re: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Post by SamBee » 30 Jun 2011, 12:10

Thoreau wrote:I read it about 1980 for a philosophy class in college. My superficial take on something I read over 30 years ago is that he was flat out nuts.
Sometimes you have to be nuts to get anywhere. Didn't people think Thoreau and Emerson were nuts at the time?
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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Thoreau
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Re: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Post by Thoreau » 30 Jun 2011, 19:01

SamBee wrote:
Thoreau wrote:I read it about 1980 for a philosophy class in college. My superficial take on something I read over 30 years ago is that he was flat out nuts.
Sometimes you have to be nuts to get anywhere. Didn't people think Thoreau and Emerson were nuts at the time?

Oh yeah, that's for sure. I think we are all a little off. There is no such thing as normal.

I just took a look at Amazon since I lent out my copy many years ago. I would like to read it again, if I recall and from looking at it it was a pretty easy read. Don't feel like putting out what Amazon is asking for it, especially the ebook version.
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” Henry David Thoreau

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SamBee
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Re: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Post by SamBee » 25 Apr 2017, 17:31

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/04/24/b ... nance.html
Robert M. Pirsig, whose “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” a dense and discursive novel of ideas, became an unlikely publishing phenomenon in the mid-1970s and a touchstone in the waning days of the counterculture, died on Monday at his home in South Berwick, Me. He was 88.]
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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