Brief Take: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values, by Robert M. Pirsig

I may not quite be well versed enough in classic Greek dialogs to fully “get” this. I understand and appreciate that the author was trying to find a way to synthesize his own thoughts about Eastern philosophy with his classical Western training, but I found it sort of boring and confusing. I believe it was revolutionary at the time, but now if I wanted to find out more about Asian philosophy, I’d go right to the source (and have, see Masao Abe’s Zen and Western Thought.)

What I did find interesting in the story was the narrator’s portrayal of how he remembers what he was like before he had a nervous breakdown and received shock treatments, as opposed to how he is now. He attempts to reconcile his emerging original personality with his new one in a way that parallels his integration of Eastern and Western thought.

I wish there had been more focus on how the re-emergence of the original personality was going to affect his family relationships. Would he go back to his obsession with philosophical questions to the exclusion of his family, or would he now be able to find a better balance?

A final thought is a quote I heard recently to the effect that the more a man considers his work to be revolutionary and important to the world, the more likely he is to have a nervous breakdown, which seems to be what happened here.

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