Monday, May 05, 2008

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

In my literary world, the definition of a good book is, at its surface, one that prompts thoughts to flow and synapses to fire. It is a catalyst of thought and insight. This book not only does that, it catalyzes awareness and the notice of relationships never before seen.

This is a definition I use to classify any written item, whether it be a book or newspaper article or website or blog or even an e-mail. If the catalyst is there, it is good. Whether there is agreement with the author or not, the catalysts' the thing.

This book, (ZMM for short), interoperates on so many levels. It is a travelogue, a philosophical work, a story of a man with a tumultuous past hidden through medical means by legal decree. A man who struggles at being a father, admitting that he wishes to be something more; something better for his son.

A troubled, gifted, fallible man.

Starting as a motorcycle travelogue, it was admittedly a little slow but interesting, none the less. Hints of obscured things are made but not yet explored. Then, toward the end of Part 1, the veil of obscurity is removed. No. That is too mild a word. The veil was ripped from its fixture. That is where things become quite interesting.

Another property of a good book, is its almost painful requirement for solitary attention. It draws me back and back, and when there are other things on my mind, the book can simply not be read. It is not understandable; simply a collection of words and letters and thoughts and concepts that just barely touch my consciousness. Any other things that are busying my mind simply block this singular input.

Many fiction books do not do this, yet I think they are good. They are entertaining while catalyzing thought, yet other thoughts not related to the book can commingle. This requirement for solitary attention is special. Any books that do this will always have a place on my bookshelf, even if they may not spend so much time there.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “It's so hard when contemplated in advance, and so easy when you do it.”

Thank you, Robert M. Pirsig for this fantastic work. I may have paid $14 for my copy of ZMM, but I shall be indebted to you for my remaining days.

This is the from the Author's Notes at the beginning of the book: “... However, it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It's not very factual on motorcycles either.”

If you know anything about Zen and you read this book, you may well see how true, but yet false this is. If you don't get it, don't worry, it's a Zen Motorcycle thing.

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