Monday, November 12, 2012

Zen & Now

I just finished up the book Zen and Now: On the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Mark Richardson. It's a good read. In it Richardson follows the route Pirsig took in 1968 when he rode his motorcycle from Minnesota to California. The book describes both Richardson's journey on his Suzuki dual purpose bike and many of the personal details of Pirsig's life, both past and present.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance came out in the 70's and has sold millions of copies. My brother John had a paperback copy that I tried working my way through shortly after the book came out but after about 50-60 pages, I couldn't see what all the fuss was about and bailed out of it. I picked it up about ten years later and made it to about the same point and gave up again. I'm an avid reader, this book makes over 40 this year, and I've struggled through some real turds over the years but just couldn't see the need to beat myself up with Zen and the Art. In fact, Richardson didn't make it through the book until his third try. After reading Zen and Now, I can see now why I never made it through Pirsig's book. First of all, Pirsig is a nut job - a tortured genius who has been institutionalized (complete with electroshock therapy, I might add) and was looking for something else in the book. The motorcycle was merely a metaphor. And his dealings with life and the interaction with his son who rides along with him on the trip is not very Zen like. Now that Richardson has explained what was going on, I can finally write Zen and the Art off my list of books that I need to read. Actually, I don't have a list - makes it easier still.

However, I like a good travelogue, I like motorcycles and I'm becoming more interested in the Zen approach to life, so Zen and Now was a good one. While never having traveled to California, I have been to several of the places mentioned in the book. I crossed Beartooth Pass in a borrowed motorhome after attending a World Superbike race in Brainerd, Minn. and I climbed the road to Lolo Pass on my bicycle, so having the shared experience made things more interesting, as well as bringing back some good memories. Richardson passes along the Avenue of the Giants on his way to San Francisco, which is someplace I hope to visit someday. As a side note, I just received some travel brochures in the mail from California. Hopefully I can make that trip sooner, rather than later.

Now my inner Buddha is telling me to get up off my arse and get busy. It's only 32 degrees outside right now, however. It was 70 yesterday. Global weirding. Never the less, I need to heed the siren call of the projects while pursuing the meaning of life. But as we all well know: "Life is a Twinkie. That'll be five dollars".


Traveling Pirate said...

I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and hated every page. I don't remember anything about it.

Shop Teacher Bob said...

That's a fine recommendation then, isn't it?

I'm picking up some travel brochures this morning for a trip back to Italy. The next blog post will have some details. If you're going to be back in the 'hood over Thanksgiving, we should get together and plan something.

Traveling Pirate said...

I'll be around. Count me in!

Shop Teacher Bob said...

The travel agent got four books - one for each of us. The one tour looks perfect. Paris and two nights in Florence.

Traveling Pirate said...

That sounds like just what I need!