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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values

Updated on August 24, 2012
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Synopsis

‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values’ is the celebrated account of Robert M. Pirsig which deals with the metaphysics of quality. The book speaks of a 17-day motorcycle journey across the United States by the author and his son Chris (joined for the first nine days by close friends John and Sylvia Sutherland). The tour of the father and the son includes numerous philosophical discussions (mentioned as chautauquas by the author) on different topics like ethical emotivism, philosophy of science and epistemology.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Summary

‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values’ is an inspired, reminiscent, challenging journal of an individual’s expedition for truth. The narrator touches and changes an entire generation, and aims to influence the new generation too. Even though the story is simple, it speaks of an extraordinary journey which would appear to be foolish in the sight of a common man. We do not find any great motives in the venture of the traveler. We don’t find any reason that he must undertake this troublesome journey with this son. Thus man along with his son makes a motorcycle trip covering America. The trip was not an ordinary one. It covers every corner, through mountain and desert, wind and rain, and searing heat and biting cold, their pilgrimage leads them to new vistas of self-discovery and renewal. The pilgrimage doesn’t seem to bring any extraordinary benefit to the travelers. It even appears insane in the eyes of the onlookers. The journey however reflects the nature and characteristics of the past twenty-five years of American culture. The journey unveils the culture and life of a generation. The journey is more or less an adventure that explores every nook and corner of American life. The book is a strange journey of man’s search for truth. It offers guidance for human beings who travel along strange paths which they have never taken. Robert M. Pirsig’s story of journey is very powerful that it would equip an ordinary human being in his life journey that seeks the truths and mysteries of life.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Analysis

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values deals with the concept of ‘quality’ and other crucial aspects of life. The author explores the real meaning of "quality". He ventures into a quest for truth and other essential values of life. The author moves away from Eastern thinking and try to learn the importance of Western rationality through seeking and understanding. According to him, in order to experience quality we should embrace quality and apply quality in the various situations. This embracing of quality would eliminate all types of frustration and dissatisfaction in the lives of people. In the book the narrator speaks of a ‘romantic’ approach to life practiced by his friend John Sutherland. John always repaired his motorcycle with the help of professional mechanics. The narrator however had a classical approach to life. He himself diagnosed and rectified the problems of his motorcycle. He solved the problems of his life with the help of his rational problem solving skills. The book deals with two different types of personalities.

The narrator prefers a classical approach even though later he recognizes both view points. He understands that consider the necessary ground that includes both. He exhibits a thirst or quest for truth. The author understands that technology, innovation and the dehumanized world associated with it is quite unsuitable for a romantic person. He learns that such individuals may have their whole life concentrated around a romantic view. The author, however, could view the beauty of technology. He is happy with mechanical work, where the real goal is "to achieve an inner peace of mind". Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance give the message that motorcycle maintenance may be dull and tedious drudgery or an enjoyable and pleasurable pastime; it all depends on the inner attitude or lack thereof. According to the author the rationality quest of truths has got its origin in Greek philosophies that were in the pursuit of establishing the idea of truth, against the conflicting force of ‘The Good’. The author says that even though rational thought may successfully establish truth, it is not applicable for all experiences. So the requirement is nothing but an approach through which life can be viewed. This approach should have a wide range of application as life experiences do often vary and contradict. He makes a thorough case that originally the Greeks did not distinguish between "Quality" and "Truth" – they were one and the same – and that the divorce was, in fact, artificial (though needed at the time) and is now a source of much frustration and unhappiness in the world, particularly overall dissatisfaction with modern life. The author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance thus prefers an approach that would embrace both romantic and rational approach. This refers to a mix of irrational sources of knowledge or wisdom as well as technology, science and reasoning. The author attempt to establish the truth that rationality and romanticism can coexist. He says that that the good combination of rationality and romanticism can bring about a good quality life.

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