Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Essay

5286 Words22 Pages
Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values Confronting crises of technological annihilation and personal madness, Robert Pirsig finds each to be a manifestation of a deeper crisis of Reason. In response) he suggests an alternative to our current paradigm of rationality, the "art of motorcycle maintenance." By showing that our understanding and performance derive from our emotional and evaluative commitments, he challenges the cultural commonplace which construes "subjective" states as distortions of "objective" reality. In so doing, he asserts that "wholeness" or sanity may be achieved only through "passionate caring," and an awareness and acceptance of how our emotions and values shape our…show more content…
Yet whereas we are never left alone by our technology, we are increasingly lonely, alienated from our deepest selves. For we have lost touch with our own feelings, being educated to ignore them in order to function in a technological world. Like Bergman's "intellectual illiterates," we are so uneducated about our inner feelings that we only learn to talk about them when we "break down," and have to be repaired by the analyst, at the Group, or in the asylum. For, we learn, our feelings distort our "objective" perceptions, and thus prevent us from functioning like our machines. In this vein, Andy Warhol wryly recalls that he had always wanted to be like a machine, for then it was easier to get along with people. We thus find ourselves fragmented, our feelings alienated from our world, our lives as well as our literature being characterizable by T. S. Eliot's phrase, "dissociation of sensibility." Parallel to this public, cultural crisis of technologically-induced fragmentation, Pirsig faces his own personal crisis of fragmentation or "madness." Some years earlier he had been declared clinically insane, and underwent electro-shock therapy to annihilate his mad personality. This earlier self, whom he now calls "Phaedrus," had gone mad as a result of a search for Truth which led him ultimately to repudiate Reason itself.[1] Pursuing the "ghost of reason" through
Open Document