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erika
09-28-2006, 08:28 PM
I'm midway through the book now and it definitely lives up to its hype IMO. What Pirsig has done here is wonderful, interweaving philosophy with characters and relationships on his motorcycle trip.

So why is it that people in cities are so disconnected from one another? Is there a point when population density swells so much that it devours humanity?

Anyone else love this book or have any thoughts on its themes?

Erika

ATP
09-28-2006, 08:33 PM
It is a long time since I read it - it is a bit hazy now, but I am left with the impression that I liked it quite a bit. Not really much aid to the enjoyment and discussion of the book. I would recommend it to those who might like to read one of the prime, popular books that seemed to capture the essence of the times.

ETA: Amazon.com has an interesting cross-section of commentary from other readers

http://www.amazon.com/Zen-Art-Motorcycle-Maintenance-Inquiry/dp/0553277472/sr=8-3/qid=1159674268/ref=pd_bbs_3/002-5157924-0423213?ie=UTF8&s=books

Bravo
09-30-2006, 06:31 AM
im really glad youre reading this. its one of my all time favorite books (see profile).


So why is it that people in cities are so disconnected from one another? Is there a point when population density swells so much that it devours humanity?


if i remember right, and its been awhile for me as well, the point of the book is that humans fail to understand the way other ppl think.

pirsing creates an easy dichotomy of ppl who think "passionately" and ppl who think "rationally". (i might have gotten the terms wrong here, but i think that was the essence of it).

his argument was that what we really need to do is see the quality inherent within all things and that way we can find peace w/ one another.

the fact is, that central thesis seems very pedestrian, but the book works b/c it hits on that theme on so many different levels.

i wont ruin the ending for you, b/c really its brilliant, but if youre half way thru i think youve at least come to the part of the actual motorcycle maintenance.

i remember as i read that, just getting irritated and even angry. it just felt like this big waste of time. i can never follow directions and having to read some1 get stuck on directions was awful.

but it was absolutely perfect.

b/c i actually saw the quality/beauty of taking apart the motorcycle and reaching that "a-ha" moment when you create something on your own.

i love this book.

finish it up and we'll talk some more. ill try to refresh myself on it as well, b/c ive really forgotten a lot of the main things that i originally loved so much.

good luck

civilian chic
09-30-2006, 09:11 PM
This is one of the books that I have picked up and gotten 150 pages into and can get absolutally no further... probably 20 times! I will never give up, because I want to love it (and I've gone looking on craigslist several times for motorcycles as a result)... but I just can't get through it! Aargh! It is the bane of my existance!

TsukiRyoko
09-30-2006, 11:31 PM
Is that, by chance, written by the same author of Zen and the Art of Archery?

ATP
10-01-2006, 07:43 AM
Is that, by chance, written by the same author of Zen and the Art of Archery?


Zen in the Art of Archery (http://www.amazon.com/Zen-Art-Archery-Eugen-Herrigel/dp/B000DCOEUW/sr=8-5/qid=1159674036/ref=sr_1_5/002-5157924-0423213?ie=UTF8&s=books) by Eugen Herrigel (1971) [or possibly 1964?]

TsukiRyoko
10-01-2006, 09:41 AM
Yep, that's the one.

erika
10-05-2006, 11:04 PM
I've heard about "Zen and the Art of Archery." And I was told there's another that's worth reading. Anybody know what I'm referring to? (Zen and I can't remember what)

erika
10-10-2006, 03:41 PM
Pirsig is starting to annoy me. He started off great and now the quality thing is getting to me. It's so mundane and irrelevant. He acts like quality is so elusive and pivotal, but so far, I couldn't disagree more. Quality is how well a product fulfills its intended purpose/goal. That's it and it's subjective.

So what?

Shadow_Ferret
10-10-2006, 11:08 PM
I remember Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance being real popular back in the 70s. I never read it because I'm an awful mechanic and I've never ridden a motorcycle.

ColoradoGuy
10-10-2006, 11:22 PM
Popular it was. I even recall a pastiche called Zen and the Art of Methadone Maintenance. I liked it (not the methadone one) at the time, although I did tire of some of the hit-me-over-the-head metaphors, like using a riff on Platoís Phaedrus for a title character.

Stacia Kane
10-12-2006, 05:27 PM
Pirsig is starting to annoy me. He started off great and now the quality thing is getting to me. It's so mundane and irrelevant. He acts like quality is so elusive and pivotal, but so far, I couldn't disagree more. Quality is how well a product fulfills its intended purpose/goal. That's it and it's subjective.

So what?


OMGs THANK YOU!! My husband is reading this book and a few weeks ago he was talking about this, about the college students and professor who couldn't define quality and what quality means...and I looked at him and said basically exactly what you just said, and told him that it seems to me like this whole "quality" thing is an exercise in pointless navel-gazing by a bunch of people with nothing better to do.

BottomlessCup
10-14-2006, 04:22 AM
Love this book.

The Quality discussion seems arbritrary because, to a degree, it is. He could've used any number of words. If my memory is correct, he uses it to begin a discussion of pre-cognitive thinking - things we know and understand without being able to nail them down in words.

It's the idea that words aren't a perfect means by which to understand our world and ourselves. There are things which are beyond words, no matter how hard we try to pin them down.


My favorite part of the book is when he discusses tools w/r/t objects being the physical manifestation of ideas. It made me want to build something.

Doug Johnson
10-14-2006, 04:31 PM
quality is subjective.

Seems like a strange opinion for a writer. If that were true, then your writing would have no quality unless someone liked it.

Doug Johnson
10-14-2006, 04:32 PM
It made me want to build something.

It made me want to write.

erika
10-18-2006, 12:12 AM
Finished Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance last night. If you read the thread, you'll notice I went from impressed to annoyed to finally very satisfied. That's a good book, one that can push all my buttons.

As for quality, I still stand by my subjective comment. And it really isn't a strange thing for a writer to say. My writing has value, quality, to me. If others find quality in it, then it should be published. If not, then it shouldn't. But I don't use that as a gauge for my skill as a writer or depth as a human being. It simply is what it is.

Think of it this way, Pirsig talks about the Amoeba avoiding an acidic environment (a low quality environment). Yet, there are bacteria that thrive in high acid environments. Thus, what is poor quality to one is good quality to another.

While I loved the book, I differ with Pirsig on quality being the reality we tap into. I think it is our love of quality that dominates our reality. We start with an innate, nonrational desire for quality (value or excellence). This is our nonrational well-spring, the source of which I connote as God. You may refer to it as the Void or Truth or Quality or Infinity. It's all the same. It is the starting premise from which reason is possible. But we often make the mistake of putting reason first as though it exists in a free-floating vacuum. That is what Pirsig is assaulting and I couldn't agree more. He admits that quality is subjective, but sidesteps the implications of this fact, seeing in its subjectivity a dubious justification for quality.

Of course, in the end, he realizes he erred by trying to define the undefinable and yet, that is what we all do. Zen scholars do the same thing. By telling what Zen isn't, you start defining what Zen is. Christians are equally guilty of this sin, describing the indescribable God. So if we are compelled to try for answers, then the answers must exist. We simply give up on them.

That's my thought anyway.

expatbrat
10-30-2006, 06:31 AM
It is one of those books that I ship from country to country promising myself that I WILL finish it one day - but I simply can not. And I generally finish all the books I start.

I got lost in the changing of spark plugs and all that other stuff that I leave to the grease monkeys in the car-shop and I just could not force myself to finish it.

The story basically is that a man and his son go on a boring trip across the country side through boring nothing towns and past boring nothing landscape and the most interesting thing that happens is our "hero" keeps his bike nice and sparkling clean while others wait for things to go wrong before they fix them - which costs more because a stitch-in-time-saves-nine.

Is the end honestly worth all those grit-under-the-fingernails descriptions?

MyFirstMystery
10-30-2006, 07:37 AM
It's one of those books I've read several times and still don't quite "get it" It's like I have a mental block around this book.

I still remember my high school lit professor asking us to talk about "what is quality?" for an hour, and how annoying it was at the time.

MFM

wordmonkey
10-30-2006, 11:44 PM
I believe, (and this is just my take, I could be wrong) the book is a giant zen koan.

Those annoying little eastern puzzles that seemingly have no answer to them (sound of one hand clapping, that kinda thing).

The purpose of a koan is to allow you to meditate, set aside your ego and to become one with the universe and attain enlightenment. (Seriously gross over simplification) The point isn't to solve the riddle though. And I think the quality thing isn't something you should get hung up on. That's not what's important.

For example, a bowl? What makes a bowl useful? Is it the sides of the bowl or is the emptiness in the bowl? And if it's the emptiness, what is of greatest value about a bowl is nothing. And without the nothing you have no bowl.

Another idea, which is in part what the boring towns and boring countryside and boring roads is about, is that in addition to losing yourself (ego) in the world/universe you inhabit, there is a buddhist idea that a way to meditate is in the act of doing something mundane and routine. You do something like washing the dishes and you aren't thinking about the dishes you're just doing and you just are.

If you try to crack this with a western outlook and philosophy, you will be driven insane. It doesn't work like that.

crashbam
11-02-2006, 09:00 PM
This is one of my all time favorite books. I've read it twice. But I tried to read it a third time recently and I'm struggling with it.

I loved the philosophy and the story too. If you like this book, try Pirisig's sequel: Lila. It's about a sailing trip up the Hudson River.

It really brings everything together and further analyzes mental illness. I think some of Pirisig's observations on mental illness are off base, but they are thought provoking.

crashbam
11-02-2006, 09:06 PM
expatbrat: you haven't gone far enough into the book. It's a ghost story of sorts too the narrator haunted by his pre-lobotomized self (or was it electoshock, I've forgotten).

The narrator suffers through a near second nervous break down. There's more, but my memory is hazy.

MyFirstMystery
11-04-2006, 02:13 AM
I believe, (and this is just my take, I could be wrong) the book is a giant zen koan.

If you try to crack this with a western outlook and philosophy, you will be driven insane. It doesn't work like that.

Thank you. This neatly summarizes why this book drives me batty. I do enjoy philisophical discussions that don't have specific answers, but if I don't understand that is what is going on - I go postal (mentally). Seeing the book as a koan makes sense.


MFM

erika
11-17-2006, 02:48 PM
I've read the comments here and it illuminates my hangup with Zen. In many ways, I find Zen thought intriguing and compelling, but there's just a tiny problem. When you start saying what Zen isn't, you start defining what it is. If you talk about or write about Zen, you are describing it. So by saying, "it can't be defined", you're really saying, "I don't understand it" because all the while you're discussing it, you are surreptitiously trying to define it. It seems like a cop-out to me.

I think Zen does an excellent job of pointing out the limitations of Western reason. However, the very philosophy depends upon intellectualization to be understood. If, for example, you aren't seeking harmony or inner peace, why would you meditate or consider meditating. Doesn't every action have a cause? And if you are seeking something, meditation is either a reasoned first or last resort. In either case, there's the rational thought process going on in your head suggesting that meditation could provide some benefit to you. So, once again, Western reason brings you to your knees (literally and figuratively).

KTC
11-17-2006, 02:57 PM
I couldn't stand this book. Having said that, it is on my bookshelf. I got so annoyed with the whole quality thing that I wanted to ring Persig's fat little neck.

expatbrat
12-28-2006, 11:44 AM
expatbrat: you haven't gone far enough into the book. .

Probably true. But after living in a Buddhist country for the last 12 months I am starting to think I wonít bother either. My take is that Buddhism is not actually the idealized Zen that westerners like to fantasize it to be.

The whole usefulness of a bowl being itís nothingness seems a bit of a waste of time to me. But I left the west and wonder if I will ever actually go back, perhaps this is all a bit so-ten-years-ago for me.

I know people who have loved this book. If you got something you wanted out of it that is great. Some nice comments on this thread, thanks for your thoughts and input.

steveg144
12-28-2006, 02:16 PM
Anyone else love this book or have any thoughts on its themes?
Erika

This book proved to be a seminal event for me many years ago, tying together my early devotion to philosophy with my career as a software developer. The idea that one could imbue technology work with philosophical spirit was an earthshaking revelation to me. I re-read the book until it fell apart, then bought another copy (which is also showing signs of wear). It will always have a place of honor on the 're-read this book' section of my bookcase.

steveg144
12-28-2006, 02:19 PM
This is one of the books that I have picked up and gotten 150 pages into and can get absolutally no further... probably 20 times! I will never give up, because I want to love it (and I've gone looking on craigslist several times for motorcycles as a result)... but I just can't get through it! Aargh! It is the bane of my existance!

Fast-forward to around, I believe, page 220, where he begins the discussion of "gumption traps." Things pick up from there. I love the book, and even so I look at the first 200 pages as the tedious 'approach march' one must make to reach the foot of the glorious mountain ... which, of course, one must then begin to climb. :tongue