Tuesday, February 6

Zen Meister Robert Pirsig and THE "Art" ...

In keeping with Sunday's theme on getting through winter blues, I sank into some old Rider magazines and turned to a Mark Tuttle Jr., "One Track Mind" editorial in which he quotes the Zen Meister of motorcycle philosophy. Robert Pirsig is author of THE best book ever written (1974) that is not solely about motorcycle riding per se, yet says all there is to say about motorcycle riding and the quality of life and machines and -- well, if you haven't read this book--doesn't matter if you ride a motorcycle or not--stop reading this blog now and get a late edition copy, which is now necessary to read Pirsig's much-welcomed Afterword. This is the book that makes me realize more than any other that I need to wrench my bike, not only to keep it in good working form but to learn other equally valuable lessons about life and ways of looking and seeing and hearing the world through an intimate connection with the machines that serve us.

Tuttle's quote from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, bears re-quoting for today's blog entry:

"You'll see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame."

"On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by 5 inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it's right there, so blurred you can't focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness."

Tuttle comments that after reading Pirsig's words as a young teen, he never felt the same about riding in a car. After re-reading Pirsig 20 years later than my first reading, his words speak to me like few others. When trying to explain to people why I love riding a motorcycle, a very "dangerous" endeavor in their concerned, myopic minds, I've tried to compare it to the limited joy I feel riding in a car. Yet, I often feel I've failed miserably to convey my exact meaning. Now I can.

Thanks Tuttle for the reminder!
Thanks Zen Meister, Robert Pirsig for the book.

Signing off from Chicago--Sister City of Siberia!


Anonymous said...

Yes, learn to wrench your own bike - it's adds a whole other dimension to riding. Pirsig's book is the epitome on the intimate relationship we can gain when we get to know the nether regions of our motorcycles. That ping, tick, clack or bang can now be understood without a costly run to the motorcycle shop to tell you that it's 'normal' or 'it's just a little varnish'.

Crusty said...

Traveling through the country side in a comfortable, climate controlled, airbag equipped, car as you listen to music on a surround sound stereo is a great way to pass the time until you get to your destination. Riding a motorcycle on a country road allows you to be part of the journey. You breathe in the aroma of freshly mowed hay from the farmers field and appreciate his toil on a warm Summers day. You smile as you accelerate, shifting through the gears, feeling the power pulses from the engine that you are in complete control of, and at one with. The cool mist touches your face in the early morning fog of September, just as the sun begins to peek between the mountains. The journeys that we experience with all of our senses are remembered for the rest of our lives.

Sojourner's Moto Tales said...

Lucas, I figure even if I learn only to do a few things, I will see and feel for my bike in ways that those who don't wrench, won't.

Sojourner's Moto Tales said...


Yes, it's that "being part of the journey" that I so desire on a MC. The only fun I have in a car is if I'm driving and it's a stick shift--I've never owned any other kind of car. Thanks for the beautiful words.