Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig


3/5 Stars

Overall, I think this book was entertaining, and I do love a good philosophical read… however, it was slow to start and while I don’t mind meandering around across the US as well as in the main character’s mind, it became a bit excessive for me.

After perusing some reviews on Goodreads I found most people either loved this work or hated it, without much variation in between. I happen to be in between. I found myself initially enjoying this book, found some good insights, going along for the ride, as it were, the cross-country ride between father and son and other characters. I did at first enjoy a lot of the stream of consciousness-like writing, though found the book slow paced oftentimes. I enjoyed the descriptions of the scenery and enjoyed a lot of the philosophical discussions, but as it got farther and farther into quality quality quality, every shred of rationality seemed to break down for me, which sort of mirrors a sanity break down of the character/author. I in some ways appreciated this and at other times felt it could have been broken down to less than 540 pages.

Now on to more specifics…

I don’t think that the logical conclusion between Sylvia and John is that they hate technology for not fixing anything. Maybe Sylvia just doesn’t bring it up because she does not feel interested in learning to do it herself, but knows John can’t fix these things or doesn’t have interest either and it will start a fight?

The argument about gravity around page 43 is so deeply flawed. Of course it existed before Isaac Newton. A thing exists even before it’s labeled. The words are constructs or ghosts in a sense, but reality is out there you just can’t neutrally describe it. Just because you aren’t witness to a thing, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t occur.

I don’t think classical and romantic understandings are mutually exclusive

And I find the below quote poignant and rather lovely… to an extent, I do believe we have to create our own realities as much smaller than the “actual” reality so as not to get overwhelmed.

“All of the time we are aware of millions of things around us–these changing shapes, these burning hills, the sound of the engine, the feel of the throttle, each rock and weed and fence post and piece of debris beside the road–aware of these things but not really conscious of them unless there is something unusual or unless they reflect something we are predisposed to see. We could not possibly be conscious of these things and remember all of them because our minds would be so full of useless details we would be unable to think. From all this awareness we must select, and what we select and call consciousness is never the same as the awareness because the process of selection mutates it. We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world.”
 And I think overall I’m not convinced that “quality” isn’t just subjective experience. To me, quality is synonymous with value. And value is something that humans attribute in a hierarchical manner… not something that exists before all other things. I was also really disappointed that the main character and his son didn’t go all the way up the mountain… it was so anticlimactic for me, but I guess that might be the point, somehow. It just seemed cowardly. I do know what it’s like to fight anxiety, etc, but this seemed to be more than that, almost demonic.

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