Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I was recently reminded of the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig. This book was very valuable to me for several reasons but most of all it helped me recognize why I find so much enjoyment in certain material objects. 

In the book, Pirsig’s main character split the world into two segments. The first segment was populated by people who want to understand how things work, take pride in the mechanics of a machine, the craftmanship that went into creating that object and the enjoyment in making it perform the intended task.  He contrasted this to the other side of the world with people who would rather not understand the mechanics behind an object and simply get enjoyment from the ultimate purpose of that object.  In the case of the book, motorcycles were the machine most frequently referenced but this comparison goes far beyond bikes and physical machines. 

Pirsig points out the need to enjoy the process, not only the outcome.  The appreciation in his eyes is greatest when the parts of a whole are truly appreciated for their contribution to the experience.  When you enjoy the journey, the destination will never be a disappointment.

Better Heard than Read

It is nothing revolutionary to say there are some books that must be read because of the incredible use of vocabulary, the brilliant sentence structure that would be lost in oration or the density of the prose that would confuse listeners who chose to listen to their professors dictate chapter and verse (Example: Immanuel Kant Critique of Pure Reason and a college philosophy professors who will not be named here).

However, some books and narrators offer an extra experience for those listening to their works.  Three that come to mind are:

  • The Art of Racing in the Rain narrated by Christopher Evan Welch
    • A tale of a dog’s life and all that surrounds that life through the dog’s eyes. Be prepared to be entertained and completely heart-broken during every listening hour.
  • Born a Crime written and narrated by Trevor Noah
    • A very serious take on the writer’s upbringing accompanied by the difficulties during the days of apartheid in South Africa.  Noah cuts the serious topics with his signature satirist tone.
  • Scrappy Little Nobody written and narrated by Anna Kendrick
    • Now added to my list of people with whom I need to have a few glasses of scotch!