Monday, March 2, 2009

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance -- Robert Pirsig ------ 4.5 STARS

As the snow tapers to an end this Monday morning (and I celebrate the rare March canceling of school), I thought it would be nice to ruminate about this book I read years ago. For some reason, I have thought about it/heard about it two or three times in the past month.... this must be a sign then to think about this powerful, all encompassing book.

I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance right after college ended. For some reason, since my formal academic career has ended and people stopped telling me I HAD to read certain books, I find reading far more pleasurable and do it far more often. In my final year in college I took an interest in Buddhism. I took a class on it and still find it to be a religion that says a lot with simplicity. This book delves only slightly into the ideas of Zen-Buddhism but having a formal education in the religion proved helpful but certainly not necessary when reading.

The book was written in the 1970s and it is basically a road adventure novel ala Keourac. Unlike On the Road, far less drugs are used yet far deeper questions are unveiled. It is about the narrator and his son taking a cross country motorcycle ride. The ride, though, is only the template or the canvas which Pirsig paints his picture. The book is really a philosophical manifesto. It looks at the major questions of philosophy from the Greeks all the way through the current debate about the efficacy of technology.

Overall, I gave this book 4.5 stars. It is incredibly inspiring, amazingly thought provoking yet still wonderfully entertaining. To me, what is so great about the book is the author's contemplation of Eastern ideals and views with those of Western subjectivity and objectivity.

If you would like to read a book that makes you truly question your own values and this country's values read this book. You will probably have to do some thinking along the way but that wouldn't be the worst thing to do sometimes, would it?

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