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1 Hawthorne Literature- A to Z

Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

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Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values Cover

ISBN13: 9780060958329
ISBN10: 0060958324
Condition: Standard
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Excerpt

Chapter One

I can see by my watch without taking my hand from the left grip of the cycle, that it is eight-thirty in the morning. The wind, even at sixty miles an hour, is warm and humid. When it's this hot and muggy at eight-thirty, I'm wondering what it's going to be like in the afternoon.

In the wind are pungent odors from the marshes by the road. We are in an area of the Central Plains filled with thousands of duck hunting sloughs, heading northwest from Minneapolis toward the Dakotas. This highway is an old concrete two-laner that hasn't had much traffic since a four-laner went in parallel to it several years ago. When we pass a marsh the air suddenly becomes cooler. Then, when we are past, it suddenly warms up again.

I'm happy to be riding back into this country. It is a kind of nowhere, famous for nothing at all and has an appeal because of just that. Tensions disappear along old roads like this. We bump along the beat-up concrete between the cattails and stretches of meadow and then more cattails and marsh grass. Here and there is a stretch of open water and if you look closely you can see wild ducks at the edge of the cattails. And turtles. . . . There's a red-winged blackbird."Blackbird!"

He says something I don't hear. "What?" I holler back. He grabs the back of my helmet and hollers up, "I've seen "lots" of those, Dad!"

"Oh!" I holler back. Then I nod. At age eleven you don't get very impressed with red-winged blackbirds.

You have to get older for that. For me this is all mixed with memories that he doesn't have. Cold mornings long ago when the marsh grass had turned brown and cattails were waving in thenorthwest wind. The pungent smell then was from muck stirred up by hip boots while we were getting in position for the sun to come up and the duck season to open. Or winters when the sloughs were frozen over and dead and I could walk across the ice and snow between the dead cat-tails and see nothing but grey skies and dead things and cold. The blackbirds were gone then. But now in July they're back and everything is at its alivest and every foot of these sloughs is humming and cricking and buzzing and chirping, a whole community of millions of living things living out their lives in a kind of benign continuum.

You 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 five 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.

Chris and I are traveling to Montana with some friends riding up ahead, and maybe headed farther than that. Plans are deliberately indefinite, more to travel than to arrive anywhere. We are just vacationing. Secondary roads are preferred. Paved county roads are the best, state highways are next.Freeways are the worst. We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with emphasis on "good" rather than "time" and when you make that shift in emphasis the whole approach changes. Twisting hilly roads are long in terms of seconds but are much more enjoyable on a cycle where you bank into turns and don't get swung from side to side in any compartment. Roads with little traffic are more enjoyable, as well as safer. Roads free of drive-ins and billboards are better, roads where groves and meadows and orchards and lawns come almost to the shoulder, where kids wave to you when you ride by, where people look from their porches to see who it is, where when you stop to ask directions or information the answer tends to be longer than you want rather than short, where people ask where you're from and how long you've been riding.It was some years ago that my wife and I and our friends first began to catch on to these roads. We took them once in a while for variety or for a shortcut to another main highway, and each time the scenery was grand and we left the road with a feeling of relaxation and enjoyment. We did this time after time before realizing what should have been obvious: these roads are truly different from the main ones. The whole pace of life and personality of the people who live along them are different. They're not going anywhere.

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lila, January 25, 2008 (view all comments by lila)
I'm surprised to not see any reader reviews. I first read this book when I was 19 years old (let's just say the book was still fairly new at that time...). Much of it was over my head, but I remember spending a lot of time thinking about it - so much that it took me forever to get through it!

Since that time, I have read this book every year for the last ten years. It still provokes thought and a lot of it is still over my head...but it has been a good friend.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780060958329
Subtitle:
An Inquiry into Values
Author:
Pirsig, Robert
Author:
Pirsig, Robert M.
Publisher:
Perennial
Location:
New York, N.Y.
Subject:
General
Subject:
Self
Subject:
Emotions
Subject:
Essays & Travelogues
Subject:
Zen
Subject:
Parental Memoirs
Subject:
Fathers and sons
Subject:
Adult
Subject:
Eastern - General
Subject:
Eastern - Zen
Copyright:
Edition Description:
1st Perennial Classics ed.
Series:
Perennial Classics
Series Volume:
106-945
Publication Date:
20001001
Binding:
Paperback
Language:
English
Pages:
464
Dimensions:
8.01x5.29x1.17 in. .86 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Featured Titles
Humanities » Philosophy » General
Travel » Travel Writing » General

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