RIP Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Originally published at:


Well, that news made my day. Quality is dead. RIP Robert.


I still view folks thru a particular lens of this book; whether or not somebody wants to shim, tape, and glue as opposed to someone who doesn’t.

Thanks for Zen Robert.


I assume you mean that in the ironic sense. (Or is irony dead too?)

It’s been a while since I thought of that but I used to. He was an important author in my life. And the gumption trap is a concept I still use in my own thinking. Sad to see him go.


I didn’t care much for the stuff about his life as an academic, but I sure liked his descriptions of being out on the open road.

“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.”


I first read this book in the summer of 1974 – the last summer I returned to my beloved Pacific Northwest after my first year away at Brown University.

I remember lying full-length, stomach-down on my bed, with the book on the floor at the foot of the bed. I got to a certain point in the book (readers will know where) and experienced a genuine epiphany when Pirsig made a crucial point about the true nature of Quality.

My mind was wiped, in the way a true koan is said to. I found my feet, and made my way out into the old-growth forest of a state park two blocks from my house. I wandered for a timeless couple of hours in a very peculiar, nearly thought-free state of mind.

It’s something I’ve never forgotten, and I wish Mr. Pirsig’s consciousness all the best.


Sorry I wasn’t clearer. I found a copy of his book in 1979 at a used book store as I was just beginning my career as a mechanic. Besides for his philosophical points, he speaks to mechanics directly. There is a part where he speaks of breaking off a bolt, and how as a mechanic you know you are mad now, but those moments are actually why you chose to be a mechanic.Many apprentices I have come across, have learned many lessons from Pirsig, even if they did not know it.
Anyone who doesn’t know, his son Christopher died tragically at 22.


Summer of 1976. Just crossed the USA for the first time on my 74’ Honda 750 with a well tattered copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Photo taken on the Sonoma coast near Jenner.
That is one helluva great book, and I still have that copy [with duct tape cover] on my work-bench in the garage.


That cover, and Prince are the two reasons I like purple.


This and the part where he explains how teaching at a teaching college and never researching destroys you.


Roger That!


I read “Zen And The Art…” in my teenage years. I liked it, although I often empathized more with poor Chris, the passive passenger dragged along by a father lost in his philosophical dreams, than with Pirsig himself. I tried to pick it up again more recently, but I couldn’t get over the feeling that I was reading a document from a lost civilization.

Godspeed, Robert Pirsig.


We have been warned many times, by many people about the reprucusions of continuing on our current path of greed and destruction, yet we choose to ignore those warnings. We all bear personal and collective responsibility for the poor state of our physical and mental world. Quality does not just happen. It must be created. Each of us is either involved in creating quality or degrading quality. Which you prefer is a question you should ask yourself every morning.


If you thought that book lost it’s magic over the years, try Carlos Castaneda. I must of been stoned when I read it the first time.


Of course we were…
Now, who followed up with Lila?
Pirsig came into my life shortly after my round of ECS ‘therapy’…
(administered in the same facility as Sylvia Plath, and Jackie O.
I found out many decades later, thanks to the 'net!)
Wrote about it honestly, frankly.

One thing is for certain, the title of the book is one of the best ever (and has been imitated ever since the book came out in 1974), and the paperback cover design is absolutely iconic.

Zen and the Art of Archery is actually the much imitated book title.


RIP. His work was important to me, ZATAOMM more than Lila. It resonated strongly. Some scenes could have been me and my dad. Even that photo in this article. Substitute a BMW R75/5 and that could have been me and my dad. I still dwell on the issue of quality from time to time.

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Zen in the Art of Archery.


Ah, thanks for the correction! I’d still credit it with being the title being imitated.


I too read this in college… but don’t really recall anything in particular from the book. I just went through it as required and took nothing away from it. Maybe I should look into re-reading it and seeing what the big deal is.