Mind: blown. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance book review
Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is not one of those books where you say "Well, that was a good book.." after finishing it.
No, it's the type of book that you hold for a little while after finishing the last page as your mind is racing to comprehend the magnitude of what has just been delivered to it. Followed by flipping through the pages to find a note in the margins or an unread prologue or afterword that could possibly add some explanation. Followed by more thinking.
Don't get me wrong, Robert Pirsig does a remarkable job of enabling the reader to follow along as he explains subject-object dualism, high-order logic, Greek philosophy and metaphysics by interweaving this intense philosophical discussion with his motorcycle travel log–so when the Narrator stops lecturing to pull over to the side of the road to rest a minute, the reader gets a mental break too. It's still a labor-intensive read, however. But worth it.
It covers topics both in the highest peaks of the mind obscured by clouds, and on the ground-level for applying those ideas to real-world applications. The real-world application that is used in the book is motorcycle maintenance, but it could be anything. As I was reading it, I was substituting motorcycle maintenance with website development (my profession), but it could have been gardening, writing, painting, accounting... anything. Essentially, on the ground-level, the message is that one must maintain gusto, gumption and passion in your duties in order to have excellence or Quality. This is accomplished by being able to see the beauty in the dull, unromantic work at hand, allowing you to achieve inner piece of mind crucial to attaining the necessary gusto. This philosophy, called Quality, extends all the way up in the clouds, where it's reveled that it connects Eastern and Western philosophies, but only if the Greek philosophers' idea of Truth as the ultimate One (which, Pirsig explains, is the basis of scientific reason and western consciousness) is rejected in favor of the older Greek philosophy that claims Excellence (identical to Quality) is the ultimate One (attacked by Socrates and Aristotle because it interfered with their Truth, and subsequently shut out of The Church of Reason and western consciousness). To do this would require a dramatic shift in how we perceive the world, because rational, logical, scientific truth would be just as valid as irrational and mystic sources of wisdom and understanding. But, by thinking this way, this allows art and engineering to be the same, it allows Zen-like focus on rational, technological concepts like motorcycle maintenance, it allows you to have Quality in your work and in your life.
Zen and the Art is a genius yet disturbed man's life-long thesis on how to live better, served in a truly rewarding and engaging novel.