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Thread: Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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    Registered User Shaman_Raman's Avatar
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    Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    This has been my dad's favorite philosophical book for years. I read it over once, with some struggle, but I think I got the main ideas. Anyone else whose read this book, share your thoughts or reviews.
    "We sat around, scratching the earth with our feet, half looking up for a sign of the end. And all the while it had long since come and gone." Alexi Murdoch

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    Registered User Shaman_Raman's Avatar
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    Oh, and I just noticed the same thread was started in 05, but it's been awhile so why not revisit it?
    "We sat around, scratching the earth with our feet, half looking up for a sign of the end. And all the while it had long since come and gone." Alexi Murdoch

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    If you want a really good read, and a short one: "Zen in the Art of Archery" -- little man able to handle a powerful bow and effortlessly get bullseyes. And studying archery by a German I think for 7 years. very good true tale.

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    I didn't like the book that much, but I liked the idea (if I remember correctly, at least). It's about quality, isn't it? I thought about it recently when a friend told me that we are becoming increasingly dependent on others and on machines. A few decades ago, people could understand a combustion engine, perhaps not the mechanics or physics behind it, but they could fix it, replace certain parts... Nowadays, cars usually have all kinds of software in them or parts you simply can't buy. It's becoming exceedingly difficult to be autonomous. We are rapidly exploiting what little natural resources we have (the eroei is diminishing quite rapidly) and this will lead to cracks in the system. Certain services or goods will become scarce, too expensive or they simply won't be here anymore. Where will that leave us? Are we trading in autonomy or 'quality' for comfort?

    I'm not sure I understood the book, though.
    The stone and me.

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    Registered User Shaman_Raman's Avatar
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    Yeah, I read through it once, and probably would need to a couple more times to make sure I didn't miss anything. But yes, "quality" is Pirsig's main discussion, and how it's indefinable, and yet everything has it to some measure. However that almost makes it intuitive, not logical, in which he talks about that dualism as well. We can call a tree beautiful and say it has quality, but what that quality is can't be objectively agreed upon: that's the idea I believe.

    I think he discusses your argument in the novel as well. I'm going to have to go back and look, but for now my question would be: isn't there a quality to comfort? Simplicity?
    "We sat around, scratching the earth with our feet, half looking up for a sign of the end. And all the while it had long since come and gone." Alexi Murdoch

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    I think Shaman and Ughek are right in suggesting it is mostly about quality, but I think it should be stressed about how he relates this to motorbikes. Phaedrus fixes his own motorbike, but his drummer friend does not, seeing it as 'too square' an activity, he 'just want's to ride, man...'. So although artists are sensitive to surface beauty, they do not want to get involved with maintaining motorbikes in the pursuit of technological quality. So when the motorbike breaks down, far away from a mechanic, his drummer friend can't do anything. There are lots of musings on how much of the modern society of ugly malls and parking lots doesn't even reach surface beauty/quality, never mind not working very well. So its really trying to get us to think of how we can get back to the active pursuit of quality in all spheres of our lives, from the mechanical, to the everyday, to the artistic, and how we need to pay attention to them all to keep the machine running smoothly. Is your dad good at fixing things? If not, ask him why he wasn't inspired to get good at maintenance by the book . I'm afraid it didn't work for me... I'm too lazy/uninterested/afraid to attempt any demanding motorcycle maintenance work; and for "long runs" I take the train. I'd much rather be reading a book than doing all that shop work. Also, although it gives some interesting philosophical ideas a good run out, I don't think it's a high quality novel, at least not compared with most acknowledged classics. And you might be better reading actual "popular philosophy" books to get the philosophy, or popular Zen books (like Zen and the Art of Archery mentioned above), to get the Zen...

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    The caffeinated newbie SFG75's Avatar
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    I really enjoyed the book. Pirsig came across as honest and sincere about his faults an the faults of others. The interaction between father and son was a hidden gem. The struggle to come to peace with your own outlook of the world and what it entails can be frustrating and that is on top of the normal things in this life that you have to cope with or handle.

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    I have read it ling ago and I cannot remember the things since one of the worst habits or tendencies I live with is I mostly forget what I read it in a while and few books can set the idea inside me for for long. I always read zen and zen is one of the inspiring philosophies and zen in fat has transformed me. My perception of the world I am living in has been different after going thru zen stories or poems.

    Zen philosophy is not a philosophy in an ordinary sense and zen is part of life and of course zen and the art of motor cycle repairing is not an idea mutually exclusive.

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    isn't the basic idea of zen 'non duality' as opposed to the 'i -thou' of say christian spirituality?'' From what i can remember of pirsig's consideration of quality he expresses the idea that it is the unity of the subjective and objective and so we don't analyse quality as either exclusively subjective or objective. I also recall the idea from the book that scientific laws are 'ghosts.' They are an expression of human understanding rather than having some independent existence, one which determines the processes of the universe. As i think on isn't one of the ideas of the book that humans can be in harmony with technology rather than being alienated by it and finding it to be 'other?' this harmony involves both the 'analytic' or mechanical appreciation and the 'romantic' which is more wind in your hair down root 66 stuff...actually i m not sure if i take this terminology from a commentary on the book or the book itself. From what i recall it's a decent read and easier going than a lot of philosophy can be...

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    There isn't really that much Zen Buddhism in it, which is a good thing The whole non-duality nonsense is just monks trying to lord it over the rest of us:

    http://speculativenonbuddhism.com/20...esh-and-blood/

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    The caffeinated newbie SFG75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by russellb View Post
    isn't the basic idea of zen 'non duality' as opposed to the 'i -thou' of say christian spirituality?'' From what i can remember of pirsig's consideration of quality he expresses the idea that it is the unity of the subjective and objective and so we don't analyse quality as either exclusively subjective or objective. I also recall the idea from the book that scientific laws are 'ghosts.' They are an expression of human understanding rather than having some independent existence, one which determines the processes of the universe. As i think on isn't one of the ideas of the book that humans can be in harmony with technology rather than being alienated by it and finding it to be 'other?' this harmony involves both the 'analytic' or mechanical appreciation and the 'romantic' which is more wind in your hair down root 66 stuff...actually i m not sure if i take this terminology from a commentary on the book or the book itself. From what i recall it's a decent read and easier going than a lot of philosophy can be...
    To me, it would be fascinating to read that book in a college class along with Martin Buber's I and Thou. The competing viewpoints you mentioned would be highlighted perfectly with such a pairing.

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    ancient atoms hypatia_'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    There isn't really that much Zen Buddhism in it, which is a good thing The whole non-duality nonsense is just monks trying to lord it over the rest of us:

    http://speculativenonbuddhism.com/20...esh-and-blood/
    non-duality isn't nonsense.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hypatia_ View Post
    non-duality isn't nonsense.
    Who said that? It wasn't you because there is no separate you in non-duality, so it must have been "me, you and everything else". Wow! The universe just spoke to me... sorry I should say "The universe just spoke" as there is no separate "me" in non-duality. But who said "the universe just spoke" Not me, so who's speaking...

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