2015-05-08 15:22:32+0000 - Toronto, Ontario, Canada

After spending four decades in print, a CBC podcast has shed light on one of the most notoriously impenetrable 20th century books of philosophy, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Listen: A fresh look at Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Selling over 5 million copies since its release in 1974, the most sold book of philosophy happens to be about Robert M. Pirsig's relationship to his motorcycle.

“The real motorcycle you are working on is yourself,” Pirsig famously said.

I'm told, the intricate themes can, at times, make the story seem opaque and even bizarre.

Tim Wilson, the CBC journalist who interviewed the author, Robert Pirsig, in 1974, now revisits the original interview and offers new reflections on his meeting with Pirsig. The broadcast also offers never-before-heard audio clips, as well as insights into Pirsig's personal struggles with electroshock therapy in the '60s.

Wilson said he spent three days picking Pirsig's brain for the broadcast, and admits that he, like many others, "tried to impress him" without actually understanding the concepts they were discussing.

Four decades later, Wilson understands the brilliance of Prisig's use of the motorcycle as a metaphoric bridge of rational and emotion thought leading to quality of life and enlightenment.

Pirsig explains that typically, in Western ideology, emotion is regarded as an undesirable human symptom while eastern philosophy believes in the powerful connecting forces of emotion and reason. As Pirsig's central metaphor goes, proper motorcycle maintenance requires both keen senses of emotion and reason. Whether it's drawing an emotional connection to the proper sound of an engine or knowing how to operate a wrench, the combination of both is what makes the experience worthwhile.

“I've noticed that people who have never worked with steel have trouble seeing this... that the motorcycle is primarily a mental phenomenon,” writes Persig’s in his book.

According to Pirsig, developing a relationship with machines is not only possible, but an unavoidable necessity in the modern era because machines are simply the constructs of human imagination and the human spirit.

As someone who hasn't read the book, I found the radio segment extremely thought provoking, but I'm still unsure if I should go and pick up a copy for myself.

To those of you that have read the book, was it worth it for you?

Listen to Tim Wilson's interview with Robert Pirsig

Get Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

For more books on motorcycling check out these titles:

Dan Walsh's These are the Days That Must Happen To You

Dan Walsh's Endless Horizon

Ted Simon's Jupiter's Travels

'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' author, Pirsig dead at 88

'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' author, Pirsig dead at 88

Pirsig author of the philosophical novel 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' died Monday April 24th 2017. He was 88. Four years in the writing and rejected by approximately 22 publishers ...
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@ojthompson thanks for the heads up on Camus' the Myth of Sisyphus - I'm going to read it. And of course Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is equally mind blowing. 


@beeks8 thanks for your comment 


Read the book some 30 years ago and loved it. Tried to re-read it again a few years ago and found it much more difficult to follow. May have been because I was always tired when I picked it up to read. Suffice to say it is not an easy read and does require your attention. Over all an important contribution to my life philosophy, right up there with Camus' the Myth of Sisyphus and Adam's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

  • beeks8
  • 2017-04-25T15:14:51-04:00

thanks for the post. I didn't hear about his passing. I read Zen maybe 20 years ago and just decided on Monday to re-read to see if the take-away is the same now the I'm older (hopefully wiser). thank you Robert for your insights. you've given me lots to think about over the years.

  • 2015-05-08T07:38:40-04:00

Oops: that was not supposed to post so fast. stuck my big finger in the wrong place. As I grew up I noticed I could be more at one with a machine, be it a car or motorcycle than I could with another person. When repairing a machine I could almost see inside of it from my mind to know what was wrong and what truly needed to be done to make it right again. Even if what made it right again was something completely different than it was before. Not unlike this book.

  • 2015-05-08T07:28:16-04:00

zen :-) this book brings back memories, I read this back in my late 20s. Personally I really enjoyed the offbeat way of being presented