PDA

View Full Version : Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenace



Edmond
09-01-2005, 12:46 PM
Robert M. Pirsig's masterpiece "Zen and The Art of Motorcylce maintenance" was part of my summer reading list, I must say that I learned a great deal from the book, what do you think of this book?

gar
09-10-2005, 06:56 PM
It is great. I read it for the first time back in the seventies and have read it a couple of times since. I can't claim to have a complete understanding of it yet. Maybe it is time I read it again.

Have you, by any chance, read Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse? To me, the two books are intertwined. I have never actually tried to figure out why I feel they are. Perhaps it is because both main characters have a sudden shift of view that changes their life - but then, I guess that is a description of all good literature.

Edmond
09-12-2005, 04:42 PM
i actually read "Siddhartha", but that was two years ago, I don't recall all the details, but I will go back and check, I must agree both are timeless classics.

C. Henrique
09-17-2005, 12:52 AM
Hello there.
I've read both masterpieces. I read Siddhartha about two years ago, and it's one of my favorite books, and Hermann Hesse is one of my favorite authors as well. I had never heard about Pirsig, until an acquaintance of mine once mentioned "Zen and The Art of Motorcylce Maintenance", so I decided to buy and to read. Through the whole reading I kept always the impression that something wasn't so clear, and that I wasn't comprehending quite well. Some sentences, some words etc. Then I judged that I got in hands an awful translation of this book. In actually I read in Portuguese, which is my mother tongue. Hope one day to read it again, mayabe in English, and to appreciate its worthiness better. Thus, I found it just a passing time entertainment - sometimes too long - and pretty forgettable.
See you.

Edmond
09-20-2005, 11:29 AM
I read it in English, I must agree with you that the idea of "Qualiy" is pretty hard to grasp at first, but think this way, think quality is like atoms, except, Atoms can only make objective things, Quality unites the objective and subjective world, it unifies all that encompasses what we call "reality".
For example, why do you see, because you see quality, why do you imagine, becasue you imagine quality, everything you see, sense, feel, imagine has certain amounts of quality, there is just matter of how much something or some subject have "quality".
In the novel, Phaedrus used the example of the essay, he gave his students different essays to read, and ask the students which one is better, the students are fully capable of telling which is better, but unable to explain it, this means that good essay has more quality, while bad essay has less quality. And everything in our reality have quality, if it doesn't, it doesn't exist. Hope this helps!

Stanislaw
09-21-2005, 10:33 PM
I quite enjoyed zen and the art of motercycle maintenance, however, it was a little drawn out in parts.

my favourite philisophical books would be the Hitch hikers series, they connected with me. (not the movie, it sucked.)

B-Mental
09-22-2005, 12:27 AM
I was reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance a couple of years ago when I was living near a ski resort in the same county as Boseman. I thought it was an amazing read. I especially liked the concept of a thought crystallisation, an explosion of thought. Yet to read Siddartha, but it will be one of my next pick ups.

EMB
09-25-2005, 04:28 AM
I read the original book when it was first released; quite the riveting read, very fascinating and thought-provoking.

Then there was the Afterword to a later edition, which rendered everything I had read with a special poignancy:

http://www.virtualschool.edu/mon/Quality/PirsigZen/afterword.html

Spooky....and strangely, uplifting....

ED :cool:

ADLforApril
10-06-2005, 10:13 AM
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is seen as a bit esoteric by a few. That is probobaly why it was rejected by more publishing companies than any other eventual best seller ever. I can't speak to the philosophical virtues espoused in this book as I have personally never read it. I do happen to be reading Siddhartha right now and I will say it is an excellent novel. On the topic of Siddhartha, it reminds me of Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo.

Wow, this post was all over the place, sorry.

simon
10-12-2005, 01:50 AM
I too, as most people have, enjoyed the book, though the ending was as inconclusive as most attempts to unite western and eastern philosophies and methods of looking at the world. I see the main problem in trying to unite the methods of reason and passion in that the west sees themselves as apart from the world and the east sees themselves as part of it. How can these modes be reconciled if we don't come to a uniform appriciated of our affect on the universe and know that we are not standersby with our heads held high in appricaition of out moral abilities-- it seems narcissistic of us.

Natalie
10-16-2005, 08:20 PM
I read it and thought it a big overdone and drawn out - but overall I enjoyed it. As for Herman Hesse and Siddartha - great masterpiece among several other masterpieces he wrote!

starrwriter
10-24-2005, 09:48 PM
I have always hated working on machines, busting my knuckles, etc. I just want the damn things to work without my help. The message I got from Pirsig's book was that when you work on a machine such as a motorcycle, you are really working on yourself -- at improving yourself.

Although I enjoyed the book, I still hate working on machines. It seems to me we spend more time and energy fixing so-called labor saving devices than we did with the original way of doing whatever. So I guess I didn't really get Pirsig's message after all.

Machines good when work.
Machines bad when break.
-- the world according to Og, the caveman

Sami
01-13-2006, 01:20 AM
I absolutely loathed this book and had a really hard time forcing myself to finish it. Absolutely tedious! Having said that, I am pretty sure that I am missing something, since I gather that it’s generally considered to be a good work, which is why I snored my way to the end. For those of you who enjoyed it, I have a couple of questions (although I realize that this was posted quite a while ago so maybe there’s no interest in continuing the discussion).

Isn’t the book incredibly dated? All that stuff about feeling alienated in a consumerist/technological age may have been a novel insight in the ‘70s but it hardly strikes me as an original point today. I’m not suggesting at all that consumerism or technology has disappeared – far from it. I did expect though that the book might offer some refreshing insights on this question. What am I missing here? Was the ending trying to put across a message about strength and value of human relationships, by suggesting that the Father-son connection is re-established????

I guess my main peeve was with the narrator who I struck to be a totally pompous and selfish character. I was not able to empathize with him at all and couldn’t help but feel incredibly sorry for his poor family. Granted that he does seem to be working out his difficulties with one of his children, at one point making him hike up a mountain (I hate these kind of country healthy activities so this would not have endeared me to my Father had I been in the son’s shoes – I did emphasize with the son there). But there’s also his wife and, if I remember correctly, another child who are hardly featured at all, and do not really seem to enter into his consideration; e.g. he doesn’t mention missing them on the trip, perhaps because he’s far too busy telling us all about himself?

RobinHood3000
01-13-2006, 06:58 AM
Eh, I personally enjoyed it, but had to rush a bit through the latter half to finish it in time for my school deadline. There's also the fact that I didn't realize to whom the name "Phaedrus" referred until halfway through the book (likewise for the realization that "Chatauqua" didn't mean the trip as a whole) that probably dampened the experience.

Sami
01-13-2006, 10:38 AM
There's also the fact that I didn't realize to whom the name "Phaedrus" referred until halfway through the book (likewise for the realization that "Chatauqua" didn't mean the trip as a whole) that probably dampened the experience.


This indicates one of the reasons I think that I didn’t get along so well with this book. Although I worked out who “Phaedrus” was supposed to be I found that the whole tone of the book was pretentious and was speaking down to the reader. The narrator spoke in an “I know something you don’t know” type of voice that really got on my nerves.

By the way, were you reading this for high school or university? Was it on the syllabus for a course, or something you chose yourself?

RobinHood3000
01-13-2006, 05:18 PM
Syllabus for a course.

Sami
01-14-2006, 01:38 PM
Again, the fact that it’s on a syllabus makes me think that I must have missed something in not finding this book very insightful.

There was one part that I did enjoy – (maybe you liked it too?): The account of a graduate seminar was spot on and probably applies to any classroom or context where a group of people is trying to impress a teacher or leader. You could feel the anxiety in this situation where everyone was creeping to get in the prof.’s good books. It showed how there’s an undercurrent to these situations that’s more important than what’s actually being said. There are subtle games being played out in stares, gestures and so on, and I liked the way that the reader got to access this through the Phraedrus’ thoughts. I suppose the fact you don’t have this undercurrent in written dialogues such as Internet forums is what leads to so many misunderstandings, although the idea of people trying to be impressive or competitive is definitely still there I think – just communicated differently maybe.

RobinHood3000
01-14-2006, 02:35 PM
Perhaps it's because I was motivated to get the most out of it. Few things irritate me as when a classmate marches into the computer lab the night before we are to have finished reading the book and declares two things: 1) he hasn't even started, and 2), in his words, "Did you know there are no SparkNotes for this thing??"

silver
01-15-2006, 07:36 AM
A wonderful book.I enjoyed reading it.

Sami
01-15-2006, 10:23 AM
Perhaps it's because I was motivated to get the most out of it. Few things irritate me as when a classmate marches into the computer lab the night before we are to have finished reading the book and declares two things: 1) he hasn't even started, and 2), in his words, "Did you know there are no SparkNotes for this thing??"

Robin, I agree that the promise of a good grade can be a powerful motivator for getting through a book. I have to say though that I’m very relieved that I didn’t have to wade through this one for a school assignment.

Why does this irritate you? I know some people who managed to get excellent grades despite leaving their assignments to the last minute, although I’m not one of them. Are these people maybe smarter than the plodders? I sometimes imagine that if I were good at working fast under pressure I would have a more fun in life. :D

RobinHood3000
01-15-2006, 10:33 AM
It irritates me because grades are not the point of school. It irritates me because the very premise of school is to learn, an experience that I find exhilarating. It irritates me because this moronic friend of mine has the opportunity to read and doesn't, and I'm sure everyone has heard many, many times what is said about people that won't read. It irritates me because that creature had two months to read the book and instead wasted his time. It might have made a difference if he'd been doing something productive instead, but productivity doesn't even enter his vocabulary. This was the creature that told me that I was one of two people in my class "weighed down with morals." And that THING refuses to learn so long as he has the grade, and even when he doesn't have the grade, he only whines!

...so, yeah, it bugs me because this classmate of mine is indicative of a teenage mentality that society is what we should cater to and that school is the system to beat, instead of vice versa.

Sami
01-15-2006, 11:09 AM
Well this was one of the themes raised by “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” wasn’t it really? I think I might be starting to get a better idea of why you liked the book.

In a sense grades ARE the point of school because so much time and effort by both students and teachers is devoted to them. I think what you’re saying is that they ought NOT to be the point, in which case what did you think of some of the alternative teaching methods outlined in the book?

Would you really prefer it if your teachers to refused to assign grades? Wouldn’t you miss the sense of achievement they can offer? Would it be fair if there were no mechanism for differentiating between the hard work you put into your assignments, and the lazy efforts of your “moronic” friend?


By the way, what would you say counted as “doing something more productive instead”? I was suggesting that being able to successfully pull off an assignment at the last minute would leave more time for fun. I’m sure you know about the problem with all work and no play? ;)

RobinHood3000
01-15-2006, 12:22 PM
I'm not criticizing school by demeaning grades. I'm trying to criticize students by demeaning the excessive focus on grades. The problem is, this classmate of mine still gets comparatively half-decent grades--as it stands, there IS no differentiation between hardwork and laziness, because the grades are based heavily on quantitative data. So you see, grades are far from a mechanism to differentiate between the two, because it has yet to work. My classmate didn't read the book, or even intend to or try to, and still received a B on the subsequent quiz.

"Success" is not without degrees. Believe my experience--procrastination results in a decrease in quality, and that's a fact. It also ups the stress level, which pitches a pall over whatever fun one is having instead of working. Particularly when the assignment is as simple as reading a book, why would someone refuse to give a standpoint its appropriate consideration? Just because it's distasteful?

Sami
01-15-2006, 02:58 PM
So you see, grades are far from a mechanism to differentiate between the two, because it has yet to work.

Right, so in the case of your friend, like the person in another thread I was just reading who decided to quit an A-level because s/he felt they knew the answers to the questions, the system is not really working for these people. They can get a good mark without really being tested. For my part, I’d hesitate to call your friend a “moron” since, in a way, these type of people expose a problem with the system at the same time as benefiting from it – shouldn’t we just say good luck to ‘em?

If you’re critical of the current process what would you propose an alternative? I am genuinely interested in whether you think that methods shown in “Zen…” are appealing. I think I would’ve reacted badly to having a teacher who made me write essays about the concept of “quality” and then refused to grade them, but maybe I’m just a conformist

Sami
01-15-2006, 03:05 PM
Believe my experience--procrastination results in a decrease in quality, and that's a fact. It also ups the stress level, which pitches a pall over whatever fun one is having instead of working.


I certainly hope this is not true in all cases - I am supposed to be studying for an exam today!! Providing that the activity is more absorbing than the one you're supposed to be doing, then procrastination doesn't necessarily up the stress level - temporary amnesia can be a tonic!!

RobinHood3000
01-15-2006, 03:08 PM
I can't really say I fully agree with what Pirsig recommends, but I think he makes an interesting point.

My classmate (I'll just call him "Chuck," because "my classmate" gets repetitive) actually is a bona fide moron. No, really. He thought that "four score and seven years ago" was from the Emancipation Proclamation and bet money that Venus was sometimes blue because of the carbon dioxide in its atmosphere (it turns out he saw a radar photograph). The only reason he passed the Zen quiz was because he asked around for what a Chautauqua was and because he, as it is said, "BSed" the definition of quality.

The entire point is that he's NOT benefiting from the system, because he isn't learning anything.

RobinHood3000
01-15-2006, 03:10 PM
Plus, procrastination may get you the grade, but over long periods of time in which you have to recall the information you learn, quality of education WILL decrease, because too few redundant synaptic connections are being made to maintain the information.

Xamonas Chegwe
01-15-2006, 06:15 PM
Plus, procrastination may get you the grade, but over long periods of time in which you have to recall the information you learn, quality of education WILL decrease, because too few redundant synaptic connections are being made to maintain the information.

Very true, but this presupposes that he gives a schitte. He probably only needs the grade in order to get into the career path he has chosen anyway. Let him BS. He is the loser in the end. Not because he might need the experience of reading the book in future, but because he thinks that the experience is not worthwhile. Leave him to stew in his narrowness.

Sami
01-19-2006, 11:09 AM
Xamonas is right Robin. I agree that it’s hard to hang on to the idea that hard work is a worthwhile experience when you see others benefiting from the short cuts. This is surely one of life's recurring trials? What I was trying to say was that these people do have a point insofar as getting a good job, or following an interesting career path etc. is not necessarily to be sniffed at. Good jobs often bring nice rewards (such as the cash to buy lots of interesting books for instance). So, in one way, it’s the grades not the overall experience that are important. Despite the obvious problems with the school/rewards system we have, I still think it’s preferable to the annoying hippy dippy alternatives proposed by Pirsig. In my view, these types of suggestions tend to make things worse in the end.

You seem to me like a person who has a very bright future ahead of you anyway - leaving him to stew sounds like a good suggestion. :)

RobinHood3000
01-19-2006, 04:00 PM
But the problem is that when the job asks you to put your money where your mouth is, if you can't deliver, then you lose your good job and will subsequently find it difficult to find a good one (such is the consequence when one such as Chuck plays games during programming class). He gets a good grade in the class, but barely learns anything.

I would be more than happy to leave him to stew if I didn't have to taste the soup--our generation is the future, tragically enough. I don't want any more morons than necessary fouling up things that are important to everyone but them. I shudder to think what might happen if one such as Chuck ended up working at NASA or the CIA as anything more than a janitor. But I do appreciate the input, all.

Xamonas Chegwe
01-19-2006, 04:04 PM
I shudder to think what might happen if one such as Chuck ended up working at NASA or the CIA as anything more than a janitor. But I do appreciate the input, all.

Just be glad that no-one like that could ever get into the Whitehouse.

RobinHood3000
01-19-2006, 04:15 PM
I dunno, he just might. Otherwise-smart women have married dumber.

Stanislaw
01-19-2006, 04:28 PM
But procrastination allows you to learn stuff to...like how to beat the entire mario bros. series! :D

I am a combo of the procrastination/learning doctrine. I gather my sources, read through them and take my time...then I write usually the day before it is due. I write quite well under pressure, however, only if I have done some research beforehand. (ps. Never Ever Use Spark Notes or Coles Notes they are craaaap!)

btw. I did enjoy the book in general, I liked the distinction between those who must pay top dollar to buy the proper manufacturers part for the bike, and those who would use an old bear can.

Xamonas Chegwe
01-19-2006, 06:28 PM
I liked the 'old beer can' bit too - best bit of the book - his mate was a WANKER (that's an english word for a word that americans can't use in a polite forum - KIDS, USE THIS WORD, IT'S COOOOOOOL!!!)

"I'll fix your bike - take me 10 minutes."
"Cool, go ahead."
"I'm going to use this old beer can."
"WWWWHHHHAAAAAATTTT!!!!!!!! Are you insane????? This is a precision piece of american engineering. Get thee behind me Satan!!!!!!!"
"Okay, whatever, drive 500 miles to the next mechanic with dodgy steering then."

That's how I remember it - in a nutshell - like I said, "Wanker"!

Xamonas Chegwe
01-19-2006, 07:10 PM
...following on from my last post...

A lot of the rest of the book was tree-hugging hippy crap though - nice tree-hugging hippy crap - but nevertheless...

It advocates sophists over philosophers - feeling over thinking - emotional rhetoric over reasoned argument. In my opinion, feeling without thinking is one of the two great curses of humanity (the other, in a nice piece of symmetry, being thinking without feeling). Don't get me wrong, feeling is important, but you should always do a bit of the latter before applying the former; and you should always do a bit of the former before commencing the latter.

I have heard (and it may well be an apocryphal tale - but it's a good'n) that the ancient Sumerians used decide their laws by having the tribal elders get roaring drunk and then lock them in a room with a scribe. A couple of days later, when they'd all sobered up, the ones still alive (the custom being to wear swords and fights being the norm!) used to see what the scribe had written and anything that still seemed like a good idea, became law. The period of reflection is what is needed. Knee-jerk reactions never consider all the angles.

Quality is important; but not exclusively important. The left & right sides of the brain both need to be engaged (if it's true that they are as disparate in function as is often claimed - I am of the opinion that we have another result of over-hugging trees here!) Quantity has it's place too.

And of course, the BIG question is, assuming that all university degrees are going to be awarded on 'quality', Who Decides? Cream always floats to the top, but so does scum. Whatever the system in place, there will always be those, like Robin's pal "Chuck" that are adept at exploiting it - they are called entrepaneurs, bosses, politicians...wankers? But you can't get rid of them. Sad, but true.

In summary, an interesting and uplifting book to read; but ultimately flawed in it's ideas by over-simplification of human nature.

XC

Stanislaw
01-20-2006, 12:18 PM
The problem comes in is the trying to convey a human condition/human thought in words. (I bet in the authors mind it sounded great)

It was not a bad book, as philisophical books go. Personally I like Lem alot better, but this was still pretty good though.

Wankers eh? without wankers we wouldn't have the dilbert comic... :D

Jean-Baptiste
03-30-2007, 01:28 PM
Robert M. Pirsig's masterpiece "Zen and The Art of Motorcylce maintenance" was part of my summer reading list, I must say that I learned a great deal from the book, what do you think of this book?

This thread has been dead for some time, but I want it back. I finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago, and I am counting it among my all-time favorites. I can't tell you how impressed I was reading it. I could tell you, but it would take the constant month that I spent raving about the book sentence by sentence to my friends.

The real thing that I want to tell you is that I went straight out and found my motorcycle after reading this book. Actually, I had been wishing for a motorcycle for months, and that may be the reason that I was drawn to this book. I had been wishing and wishing, and thinking of ways I could get a motorcycle, and thinking of motorcycles that I knew of that people might be willing to sell to me--and then one day I realized that I already had a motorcycle. I've had a motorcycle for over a decade, and I had forgotten all about it. It's a huge motorcycle (a Yamaha XS1100, that means big) It needs a lot of work, but Robert Pirsig has told me exactly what needs to be done, so I'm confident. Has anyone else read this book and felt a supreme motivation from it? I don't mean merely with regard to getting a motorcycle, but motivation toward Quality.

One of the things that impressed me immensely is that the book itself is a demonstration of its own content. It is a monument of the very Quality discussed in the book. I don't mean that it is merely a good book, but that the Quality is not only explicit, but implicit as well--it's not only explained, it's present. That is what impressed me.

I've got more things to discuss about the book. What do you have to say for it?

Robin: I want to say that I'm glad you seem to have got the real meat out the book. Your arguments are right in line.

billyjack
03-30-2007, 01:51 PM
zen and the art is good. pirsigs follow up book, "lila" might be better. not to come across as a "i read lila so i know all about zen and the art" kind of fella. i just think lila is worth reading. and anyways, you can't "know" about zen and the art, if anything, it presents itself and teaches as a way of "unknowing."

the scholar learns something new everyday.
the man of zen (tao) unlearns something every day. (zen cone)

hbacharya
03-31-2007, 07:45 AM
Robert M. Pirsig's masterpiece "Zen and The Art of Motorcylce maintenance" was part of my summer reading list, I must say that I learned a great deal from the book, what do you think of this book?

I am familiar with Zenism and have heard about it but at first the very title of it sounded some thing naive, something too simple, but I came to know later on that zenism is a philosophy that does not give things uncommon oyut of the blues, but in all that we do in our day to day things there is a galary of things that are marvellous and worthy of knowing.

Yet I have no this book on my shelf and am thinking to buy one. Anyway before buying it I want someone to explain about it so that I will see whether it is to my liking beofore bying it.