What is a motorcycle road trip? Is it a vacation or therapy? Is it a means to a destination or is it a life changing event? The answer to these questions quite often depend on your prospective and what you feel about your own motorcycle riding. This was also a major question in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” a book that defied odds and changed the way many people saw cross-country motorcycle journeys.
The Journey, Motorcycle Maintenance and Zen
The story of Zen is probably a familiar one to many motorcyclists. A father and his 11-year-old son team up with two of the dad’s friends to travel across the country. They face Mother Nature, the occasional bad road and motorcycle breakdowns. The friends part ways when the journey no longer agrees with them, and son and father make their way to their mysterious destination alone. Sounds like quite the adventure, but it is about far more than that.
The story of a man called Phaedrus is interspersed in the tale. He’s a philosophy grad student who is seemingly going mad, and soon we realize that Phaedrus is the father in this story. This brings up philosophical questions about quality and whether a classical or romantic way of life are appropriate.
Sounds like a heavy topic, doesn’t it? But tackling this sort of thinking is a major part of riding a motorcycle. The freedom riding enables you to consider these aspects of life, and it was that unique motorcycling experience that author Robert Pirsig relied on.
Pirsig based Zen on a similar road trip that he took with his young son via motorcycle. Pirsig’s son Chris, reportedly didn’t like the book because it wasn’t like the fun trip that he remembered. However, the book touched the hearts of a generation in the 1970s. It embodied not only the spirit of riding, but was complex enough to explore deep philosophical questions. After being rejected by publishers 121 times, it was finally published in 1974 and became a bestseller. Now, many people consider Zen a classic.
On April 24th, Robert M. Pirsig passed in his South Berwick, Maine home at the age of 88. He wrote one other novel—Lila: An Inquiry into Morals. His work influenced the lives of not only motorcyclists, but people all over the world.
The motorcycling attorneys here at the Metier Law Firm wish to acknowledge his passing and his contribution to the world of motorcycling.