Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – A Book Recommendation
Robert Pirsig is best known for his best-selling book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It voiced the anti-establishment sentiment of the generation of hippies, asked their unasked questions, and went on a journey to find an answer.
Robert Pirsig died yesterday, April 24th 2017, at the age of 88. His book inspired millions of readers, myself included. This previous post on gumption is inspired by his book. So here is my personal recommendation of his famous book.
To whom do I recommend this book and why?
To anyone who grew up in the modern Western world where success is the life goal but isn’t adequately defined in non financial terms. If you ever say things like, “This sucks, but it’ll be fine after…” If you reject the default way of life, materialism, consumerism, and the common life plan whose steps are, “go to school, get a job, get married, have kids, retire, and die. Oh and stay out of trouble.” If you reject all this, but still seek an alternate way of life.
Without spoiling anything, the story digs deep into the question, “How do you live a good life?” by asking another, “What is good?” Robert explores answers to this question starting from the modern technological age and far back to the ancient Greeks. He won’t say how one should or shouldn’t live their life, a refreshing difference from typical how-to books. Instead, he tells a story, based on his own, and along the way, he brings up ideas and questions that the reader can use for themselves on their own journey.
The tale is winding and scenic, just like a cross country motorcycle trip. It doesn’t rush from one action/drama-packed scene to the next. Instead it gives the reader time to digest to an idea before travelling to the next. Therefore, it may be well-enjoyed if it’s not hurriedly read in search of answers. Afterall, the answers will come from the reader. Instead the book sets the context with ideas and questions that may help one find answers, and it may be reused in pursuit of answers across other areas of life.
Robert addresses many of the feelings and questions we may have in face of our society’s glaring contradictions. How can we stand for individuality if our institutions inhibit individual reasoning and expression? How can we try to make things better without first improving ourselves? It’s his unique exploration and response to these feelings and questions that makes the book so fascinating.
I highly recommend the audiobook. I listened to it slowed down to 85% while on my own road trips for a really worthwhile experience. Let me know if you try it, too!