Zen and the Art of MC maintenance - a discussion...
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  1. #1
    Senior Member AGman's Avatar
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    Zen and the Art of MC maintenance - a discussion...

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    Last edited by AGman; 08-06-2018 at 04:41 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Hidebound's Avatar
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    A nap.

    I tried, really, but just couldn't make it through more than a page or three before passing out from sheer boredom
    '01 TW200, '03 Z1000, '09 KLR 650, '13 CRF250L

  3. #3
    Senior Member sponge's Avatar
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    Where do I start.
    0724160658.jpg
    I read this book over the summer between my freshmen and sophomore years of college. At the time I was dating a girl from Athens Georgia. Daughter of an English professor. We would choose a book, both read it, and then write our thoughts to each other. Nothing really focuses your attention like wanting to impress a literate and intelligent woman. Needless to say I read this book very thoughtfully. Doing so, I will admit that, it changed my life in a few meaningful ways.

    So first things first, if you think this is a motorcycle travel and maintenance book, you are going to be disappointed. It does have those aspects but it is only a small part. This book has essentially three layers (like an ogre)
    1. The story of a man traveling across the country on a Norton, and what it takes to keep it going.
    2. The story of his past and the demons that haunt him.
    3. A deep psychological exploration of what is "Quality"

    The third part makes up the majority of the pages. While Pirsig does finally get to a working definition, in my opinion, it takes him a long time.
    The timing of my reading this book was, I think, important. Early college, beginning of my independent life. What it did was make me look carefully at the kind of person that I wanted to be. How important was "Quality" going to be to me. Are you the guy who need the newest best looking thing for all the world to see or are you the guy with the old ugly thing that is quality. Cutting base boards, do you get it close and just fill in the gaps with caulk, or do you cut them perfect, so no caulk is needed. In the end it will be painted and likely look the same.

    As fate would have it I got a job helping build a house with an Old, "High Quality", carpenter. He didn't order a truck load of wood, he inspected and choose every piece. He wouldn't use a nail gun, "not accurate enough". From footings to roof if it was off a 1/16, we took it apart and did it again. At first i thought he was nuts.
    As it turn out there was another house being built next door that was being built the way most homes are built. A crew, with the cheapest bid, would come in and do cement, then another crew would come do framing, etc. Most crews were 5-10 people vs. him and me. Initially it looked like they would be done in a quarter of the time, but, if the footings are perfect, the cement goes in right, If the cement is perfect the framing goes together right, If the farming is perfect, the wiring, plumbing... etc.
    Most of the time the inspectors would come out, see whose job it was and just sign off without looking. They knew him, and that was enough. Eventually we finished first, while the other did and redid things.

    The point was hammered home. Quality matters, even if it will never be seen.

    So,

    Not a really a motorcycle service manual, but an important book to me personally.
    Last edited by sponge; 07-24-2016 at 07:54 PM.
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    Chris Vogel
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  5. #4
    Senior Member JagLite's Avatar
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    I read it when it came out and it it made me want to take a trip on a bike.

    I read it again 2 years ago and I had an entirely different view of it.

    As a young person I saw the noble quest.
    As an older, wiser, and more experienced person I saw a sad story of a man living with mental illness, failed treatments, and how his family suffered.
    Maybe the title should be: "Zen and Brain Disease - An Introspective Account"
    I don't recommend the book to anyone anymore.
    James

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  6. #5
    Senior Member Byron's Avatar
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    First, thank God I am not the only one on earth disappointed by this book.

    I too have seen the endless mythology surrounding this thing, and, finding it in a used book store in Portland a few years ago, finally bought a copy, and forced myself to drag my eyes past every, single, endless, painful, tortuous, awful page. It was painful, really, did I say painful ? Yes, it was. Sorry to those who get all dreamy eyed and psychological about it all, I just didn't catch that from it. At all.

    No offense meant to those intent on discussing how deep and meaningful it is, I guess I'm just a "get 'er done" kind of guy. I'd rather be out riding, than inside reading about someone else's problems.

    "It is not a book that I would recommend to anyone under 50 years old to read. And best understood by a reader over the age of 60."

    That might be where I went wrong, although I am now over 60, maybe I'll pick it up again at 80 (God willing) chances are I won't be riding as much then, and should have some time to sit and read.
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    Oregon, love the climate and riding, not so much the lefty politics.

  7. #6
    Senior Member TW-Brian's Avatar
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    After at least 4 or 5 years, I have only been able to force myself up to page 26.

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  8. #7
    Senior Member sponge's Avatar
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    Side story

    I can see that we are all different and that is OK.

    There are a few points that I think are worth discussing, but if it is not to be, that's OK too.

    My wife has a side story that is worth repeating about this book that you might find interesting.

    My wife is an accountant. Both by training, degree, and nature. She loves those numbers and gets very uncomfortable when they don't work out just right.
    So while in school for her degree, the college noted that they were turning out very capable and top rated graduates, but often not very well rounded people. To help the situation the school instituted a new requirement. Each professor choose a meaningful book. Students would look through the list of books, choose one for each semester, and read it. They would then meet with the professor at the end of the semester to discuss the book. So my wife having a deep connection to her father and his Harley choose Zen...
    So in the discussion the professor brought up the "shim example" (Pirsig cuts his shims from beer cans, while the BMW friends will only use an official factory shim).
    So it turn out that my future wife is the only female in 20 something students in the discussion group.
    And the only one who knows what a shim is, including the professor.

    That's my girl!
    Last edited by sponge; 07-24-2016 at 04:58 PM.
    Chris Vogel
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    1982 550 Vision, 1986 XL600R

  9. #8
    Senior Member methamphetasaur's Avatar
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    20160724_212005.jpg

    I think you guys have focused too much on the mental illness part of the book. I've read it a few times, but that's never what I got out of it. Just a more modern version of "What is?" that every philosopher has been asking for thousands of years. [I feel like maybe you guys are the kind of people that didn't like Into the Wild because he died at the end.]

    And if you want mentall illness, Lila is the one for you. Its pace is a bit slower and its philosophy is a bit more disjointed- but if you're an 'I read Thomas Pynchon novels in an unironic totally on purpose way', this one might be for you.

    P.s. Itook that picture in my space library and forgot to cut the gravity on. Sorry.
    Last edited by methamphetasaur; 07-24-2016 at 10:41 PM.
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  10. #9
    Senior Member JustPassinThru's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGman View Post
    I noticed this book was referenced in another thread, so I thought I would start this one rather than taking the other one off topic.

    When I was growing up as a kid, all the guys (no women I noticed) writing in the mags I read raved about this book. So when I got the opportunity to read it I did so in a single sitting.

    I was utterly disappointed in the whole thing and all I can remember taking from the book to this day was a guy with self-inflicted issues intent on inflicting them on his son.

    Do I need to read it again? What did the others here take from the book?
    I took it as the tale of a very-troubled man, with an equally-troubled son, who found motorcycling to be an escape and diversion. Who, being intelligent, rebelled at the cost of maintaining a cycle of that era. We today tend to forget how maintenance-intensive were machines two generations back.

    He used motorcycle maintenance as a paradigm of logical, rational thinking - as he attacked the bigger problems in his head. WHILE describing the trip as, at first an escape, and then a confrontation to his demons, and - the way he wrote it - a release.

    While it was well-written, what Pirsig was describing is the Geographical Cure. When things aren't going well, load up the horse, or car, or motorcycle, and move on to the next town. He had tried it before the time of that story and he tried it later, moving to Switzerland with a new wife.

    Nobody seemed to benefit from any of this. Pirsig's son, Chris, will murdered on a San Francisco street some years later, just shy of his 21st birthday. It may have been that his own mental issues led him to be hanging around with the kinds of people who would be around violent street crime. Pirsig's failing marriage, which he alluded to, did in fact end and he married a Swiss woman. He now lives in the East somewhere - and while he mostly keeps to himself, what he has said to interviewers in the last fifteen years, shows he's not right in the head.

    As to the central discussion of the book - "What is QUALITY?" - I can answer that, easily. Quality is not a substance. It is a measurement. You have a widget; and you have an idea what it is to do. How WELL the widget does it, is what determines QUALITY.

    Pirsig's Honda CB305 was a quality motorcycle for its time. It was a LOUSY outboard motor. It had NO quality as a riding lawnmower. It had a task, to move the rider down the road; and used as intended it was a high-quality product.

    The university Pirsig taught at in Montana, obviously, was low-quality - the education provided students was substandard given the expectations. Both for the stories Pirsig related in the book, and the very fact that they HIRED Pirsig as an instructor. Low-quality.

    I found it an interesting read, though - but every man to his taste.

  11. #10
    Senior Member methamphetasaur's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGman View Post
    I can't believe he got so hung up on this point - "hypothesis generation within scientific practice". Really? I understand our system of scientific discovery may not be perfect but it has served us well for hundreds of years. Was this line of thought (obsession) worth the trail of destruction that he left both personally and professionally?
    Yes, I think. The point is not that the scientific method is flawed. The point is that the human method is flawed. This book was about his search for THE answer. If it is THE answer, than it must be absolute, and if it is indeed absolute than it most certainly must be able to be found by science, which deals only in absolutes. But he found that every answer leads to more questions, and even the unanswered ones lead to more questions, and no matter what you did you would never find all the answers so he left. He left to find THE answer. And if the writings in the book are accurate to real life, that search for THE truth is what made him insane. Does the fact that he never found the answer make the search [and the book] stupid? A lot of people seem to think so.
    AGman and Smitty Blackstone like this.

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