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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert M. Pirsig is another of those stream of conscious memoir-esque narratives, enough so to be found in the philosophy section of our store. In its introduction, Pirsig explains that, despite its title, "it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It's not very factual on motorcycles, either." Though it may not follow the two concepts, it really does inspire a zenful thought-process of the various questions humans face via the practice of motorcycle maintenance.

The author finds insight in the fundamental questions of life and self-awareness through a fictionalized autobiography of a father and his son's, Chris', journey over the summer on a motorcycle trip. Over the course of a 17- day expedition from Minnesota to Northern California, discussions of epistemology, emotivism, ethics, moral, and science all tie into the narrator's past self, referred to as Phaedrus after Plato's various dialogues. Phaedrus spent much of his time as a writing teacher obsessed with the concept of what it means to be good, and in turn, what he considers to be the undefinable term "quality", eventually driving him into a philosophical madness. The result: electro-shock therapy and a permanent personality shift, that he must face head-on.

The psychological, physical, and philosophical journey on which these highly developed characters travel not only entertains, but brings the reader closer to understanding their own past, present, and future, in parallel to the main character's attempt at enlightenment. Plus, the concepts such as that of "chautauqua" (che-ta-qua) made it into the curriculum of a very close educator friend due to the title, and has thus spread. In fact, as the term refers to a popular form of education from the 19th and 20th centuries combined with entertainment via lectures, concerts, and plays, this meeting in itself is a chautauqua. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance truly is a delightful blend of entertainment and education, that anyone, regardless of interest in Zen or motorcycles, can take something meaningful from.

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