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Squirls

Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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Has anyone read this book? I thought it was fantastic, if a little drawn out, book. Pirsig attempts to define quality - we all know it when we see it, but how do we satisfactorily describe it or measure it.

 

There were one or two concepts in the book which totally blew me away. For example he describes how we never actually see reality in the present as it happens. Have you ever had one of those moments where you've said "pardon" to someone, only to realise what they said and give an answer. This is due to the momentary lapse in time between the words spoken and the sound travelling to your head plus additional time for you to process what you've heard. What you're looking at right now may have happened only milliseconds before, but nevertheless it's in the past and is a construct of our interpretation of it.

 

You'd obviously be a bit cheesed off if you bought this book thinking it would help you fix up your motorbike though!

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I read this book when it first came out in the mid-70's. The blurb said 'this book will change your life': it certainly changed mine - I wasted a couple of years of it trying to get into the book!

 

But I'm delighted to hear that you got something out of it Squirls; I never managed to get all the way through. I do remember him talking about a 'chautauqua' or some such Native American gathering and I think he did use a couple of examples of motorbike mechanics to try and illustrate something but the significance of it all went over my head I'm afraid. :confused:

 

If I remember correctly, (and it's more than 30 years ago so bear with me!) 'Jonathon Livingstone Seagull' came out at about the same time and was also billed as a life-changing book. To me it was just a fairy tale for grown ups about some bloody bird!

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I realise this thread is almost five years old, but that doesn't seem to matter in the context of a book that came out in 1974!

 

I love this book, it's possibly my favourite book of all, full stop, ever! I was just thinking about "comfort reads" (another thread!) and this was first into my mind: I'm quite happy just picking this up and opening at a random page and reading for a little while. Any part of the author's long journey across the mid-west, his earlier attempts to break free of society's expectations and the drama thus caused, or his attempts to describe the world in terms of classic and romantic systems.

 

Some highlights for me: watching the backstreet garage mechanic solder the chainguard on the motorcycle for one dollar (writing that down like that, it doesn't actually sound that inspiring!); making handlebar shims out of beer cans; and tuning the motorcycle on a cold mountain morning. All of these scenes are so beautifully written, and contrast so well with the sweeping scope of passages investigating the nature "quality".

 

I've given away several copies of this book to people who I thought would enjoy it. I remember many years ago, someone I worked with asking "Have you read Zen...?" and my reply, "I think it's fair to say I've based a fair part of my professional life on it..." :-$

 

And of course, the ending which even now makes me well up.

 

 

Chris dies. But then, don't we all?

For example he describes how we never actually see reality in the present as it happens. Have you ever had one of those moments where you've said "pardon" to someone, only to realise what they said and give an answer. This is due to the momentary lapse in time between the words spoken and the sound travelling to your head plus additional time for you to process what you've heard. What you're looking at right now may have happened only milliseconds before, but nevertheless it's in the past and is a construct of our interpretation of it.
Another example is when you look at a clock and the second hand seems to be still for longer than a second. It's because you look at the clock and don't see the clock straight away; to fill in the "gap" in your vision, your brain can only use what you're looking at now, which is the clock with its second hand where it is *now*, so the "vision" of the clock is filled in backwards, with the second-hand always in the same position. I haven't explained that very well!

 

I think I might have to go and fetch my paper copy and spend a few minutes flicking through. I guess this is as good a definition of a comfort read as any: a book you can spend time with like an old friend.

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I haven't explained that very well!

Better than my explanations!

 

It's one of those books you just have to read in order to get it.

 

Funnily enough I was cleaning out a cupboard the other day and this book fell on my head - I wondered what had happened to it. Can't believe this thread is nearly five years old!!

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I began reading this book a few months ago then stopped half way through. Not because I didn't enjoy it - it's one of the best books I've read in a while - but because it took effort on my part. I'm going to get back into it now after reading this thread though.

 

I remember it made me think and I regret not writing stuff down while reading it initially, as I had a lot of thoughts going through my head.

I generally read to relax and almost switch off, so reading this type of book was a bit new for me, which is probably why I stopped before I could finish it. As much as I was enjoying it, I became exhausted.

After finishing it, I might look for similar books on the topic - my experience with this book has made me realise I don't use my brain as much as I should!

Edited by Angury

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