“We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it’s all gone.”
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance written by Robert M. Pirsig is probably the oddest title that you can possibly find in the book shelves. However, this novel has not attracted many readers because of its peculiar title, but rather due to its philosophical depth written in a way comprehensive to everyone. The book is centered around one protagonist who is on a 17-day motorcycle journey through the United States with his son Chris. Throughout the book one central question is reiterated over and over again: “What is good and what is good writing?” More precisely, the main character asks “What is quality and how is it defined?” Although, this may not seem an obvious philosophical dilemma for the untrained eye, the reader soon realises in a very beautiful narrative that it is virtually impossible to define quality. In fact, what is it? Who sets the standards? What is quality based on? What in fact is quality? These questions, which are rooted in his past, drive the protagonist slowly insane. Pirsig leads the reader cunningly throughout many epochs of history addressing the central question of quality and its implications to our modern world.
“The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”
“For every fact there is an infinity of hypotheses.”
“You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.”
This book is certainly a modern classic dealing with a very deep philosophical question. Do not be afraid of technical terms about motorcycle maintenance, for that really is a way of Pirsig to draw the attention of your mind to details in a very unfamiliar way. This book is mesmerising and unique in style. Are you ready for an outstanding piece of modern writing which will stimulate your brain and change the way you perceive the world?
“After reading this book, I saw the world with different eyes. After carefully thinking about it, I realised that everything around me is measured against a standard. But who is to set a standard and why does everyone seem to blindly follow it? What is deemed beautiful in one culture is not deemed beautiful in another. This book really helped me see the world with different eyes and question the definition of quality other people have tried to force on myself. At the end of the day, I am the only person living my own life.”
Robert M. Pirsig wrote a sequel to this book, called “Lila”, which discusses the definition and use of values and morals in our culture. We will report on this book on City Connect in one of our next book reviews.
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