A trip along the United States, a motorcycle, a street that rushes, and thoughts: this is the scene that a person imagines when reads “Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance“, a book about a journey written by Robert M.Pirsig in 1974.
Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance: the story and the journey
Pirsig’s book, written in a fluent and intense manner, tells the story of a father and a son traveling over hundreds of kilometres on board of a motorcycle. A trip full of philosophy, dialectic and rhetoric: that’s what emerges from Chautauqua, a sort of traveling tutorial.
A digression through two parallel stories. On one side there’s the story of the journey, the two players’ feelings and the detailed description of landscapes and motorcycle maintenance. On the other side we find reflections and ideas that the father tells, based on what happens around him.
Quality is the keyword of this book. Quality as the concept that draws our existence, not as the definition that we can find on a dictionary and that represents the area of judgement. Pirsig describes Quality in this way:
“Or if he takes whatever dull job he’s stuck with…and they are all, sooner or later, dull…and, just to keep himself amused, starts to look for options of Quality, and secretly pursues these options, just for their own sake, thus making an art out of what he is doing, he’s likely to discover that he becomes a much more interesting person and much less of an object to the people around him because his Quality decisions change him too. And not only the job and him, but others too because the Quality tends to fan out like waves. The Quality job he didn’t think anyone was going to see is seen, and the person who sees it feels a little better because of it, and is likely to pass that feeling on to others, and in that way the Quality tends to keep on going.”
Bike ride as a metaphor for life
Landscapes, Minnesota, Montana, Dakota, California: a detailed description of the journey. Because travels are very important, they enrich ourselves and allow us to know other cultures and stories. In Pirsig’s book travel is the essential component: not only in the story but also in the metaphor surrounding it.
Travelling as the ongoing search for self and as the realisation of what we are. And through Quality we can make a better life and overcome the difficulties that we encounter on our way.
A book that doesn’t want to teach. A story that attracts who is lost, those who love trips and emotions. A book that wants to encourage and lead to reflection and maybe also to discussion. But Quality must be always present.