BOOK REPORT; ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’

 I read it two or three years ago now but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. This is a book that stays with you for years after you’ve finished it. 

Recently I’ve been reading a couple of books on teaching with methods of inquiry and conceptualization. Pirsig’s constant struggle is between what’s measurable and what’s meaningful. In this novel that tension seems to have led him to a breakdown. I feel like this is the same struggle we have in American schools today. 

Teachers want to challenge students to become intellectually curious and develop into whole, healthy, principled individuals capable of participating in and contributing to society- whereas politicians, administrators and officials have been stressing accountability based on data from standardized test results. 

Really it’s a false dichotomy, we need both differentiation and standardization, but the tension and dissonance are putting enormous pressure on professional educators and their schools resulting in frustration, confusion, and perhaps even an identity crisis just like Pirsig has to recover from in ‘Zen.’

But my identifying the central conflict with education really minimizes the book. Hit resonates on many more levels. It’s got plenty so say about self awareness, self acceptance, relationships, and parenting.

Riding from Minnesota to Montana on back roads and county highways with his son, Pirsig has hours to experience, contemplate, and think. This book is his “chautauqua,” hoping to help us deepen some of our channels rather than blaze new trails. Interesting so far. I think this is what I had hoped that Kerouac’s, ‘The Road’ was going to be like, but it wasn’t 

What books have ‘stuck’ with you for months or years after you’ve read them? What books have had a major impact on your life or profession, or personal world-view or outlook on life? How did they effect you? Why did you relate to the characters in those books?

Anyone else out there read this book? What did you think? How would you compare it to ‘The Road’ by Jack Kerouac?


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