Podcast #994: A Guide to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. It’s a peculiar book, especially for a bestseller. Not a lot of it is actually about zen or motorcycle maintenance, it combines a travelogue, a father/son story, and philosophical musings, and the structure of its narration makes it hard to follow. Thus, it’s the kind of book people often buy, start, and then put down without finishing.

That’s initially what happened to Mark Richardson, an author and automotive journalist who was born in the UK but has lived most of his life in Canada. But when the book finally clicked for Mark, he was so inspired by it that he actually undertook Pirsig’s motorcycle pilgrimage himself. Mark shares that story in Zen and Nowwhich intersperses stories from his own road trip with an exploration of Pirsig’s life and famous book.

If you’ve wanted to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenancebut haven’t been able to get into it, today Mark will offer an introduction to what it’s all about. We discuss Pirsig’s ideas on the metaphysics of quality and our relationship to technology, and how he tried to combine the ethos of Eastern and Western thought into a unified philosophy of living. We also get into why Mark wanted to recreate Pirsig’s road trip, the joys of traveling by motorcycle, and what Mark learned along the way.

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