Urban Dharma Newsletter -
June 8, 2004
This Issue: Zen and the Art of
1. Quality - Inspired by Robert Pirsig's book, Zen and the Art
of Motorcycle Maintenance, An Inquiry into Values ...Brad
2. Robert M. Pirsig´s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
and the term ´Chautauqua´.
3. Who is Robert Pirsig, and how can he change your life? ...
4. FAQ... Questions and Answers about ZMM
Elena's Motorcycle Trip Through Chernobyl
6. Book/CD/Movie: eBook - Guidebook to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle
Maintenance ...by Ron Di Santo (Author), Tom Steele (Author)
effort that has self-glorification as its final endpoint is
bound to end in disaster. - Robert M. Pirsig
Quality - Inspired by Robert Pirsig's book, Zen and the Art
of Motorcycle Maintenance, An Inquiry into Values ...Brad
that door leads to Sarah's office. Sarah! Now it comes down!
She came trotting by with her watering pot between those two
doors, going from the corridor to her office, and she said,
"I hope you are teaching Quality to your students.".
This is a la-de-da, singsong voice of a lady in her final year
before retirement about to water her plants. That was the moment
it all started. That was the seed crystal.
. . . you know what it is, yet you don't know what it is. But
that's self-contradictory. But some things are better than others,
that is, they have more quality. But when you try to say what
the quality is, apart from the things that have it, it all goes
poof! There's nothing to talk about. But if you can't say what
Quality is, how do you know what it is, or how do you know that
it even exists? If no one knows what it is, then for all practical
purposes it doesn't exist at all. But for all practical purposes
it really does exist. What else are the grades based on? Why
else would people pay fortunes for some things and throw others
in the trash pile? Obviously some things are better than others
. . . but what's the betterness? . . . So round and round you
go, spinning mental wheels and nowhere finding anyplace to get
traction. What the hell is Quality? What is it?
Robert M. Pirsig´s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
and the term ´Chautauqua´.
book describes a seventeen-day journey of father and son across
the United States from Minneapolis, Minnesota to California.
A rough outline of the route comprises Minnesota, the Dakotas,
Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and California. For the first nine days
they are joined by a befriended couple, who, just like the narrator
and his son, make their way across America on a motorcycle.
The novel is set in the America of the late sixties (it was
not published until 1974, though). At that time the narrator,
whose name remains unknown to the reader throughout the book
except for his former self that he refers to as ´Phaedrus´,
has reached the age of forty (p.338), and his son Chris is around
twelve (p.30f.). On their trip "secondary roads are preferred.
Paved country roads are the best, state highways are next. Freeways
are the worst" (p.14). Directly before this statement the
narrator mentions that they "are just vacationing"
(p.14), offering a first answer to the question of the purpose
of the trip. Yet only three pages later (p.17) the reader is
brought closer to what the book (and, presumably, the whole
trip) is all about:
would like to use the time to talk in some depth about things
that seem important. What is in mind is a sort of Chautauqua
— that´s the only name that I can think of for it
— like the traveling tent-show Chautauquas that used to
move across America, […] an old-time series of popular
talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and
bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of
the hearer. ( Pirsig, p.17)
narrator sticks to this expression as well as to the lecture-form,
the most defining element of the original Chautauquas, throughout
the novel. He uses the term Chautauqua whenever he wants to
present notions of a more theoretical kind: motorcycle maintenance,
philosophy, technology, 20th century life, etc. These Chautauquas
gain importance for the narrator on a very personal level, because
the lectures become more specifically linked to the narrator´s
life. Still, he never abandons pointing out general implications,
trying to come to conclusions at the end of the Chautauquas
(although sometimes the end of one and the beginning of another
are blurred). A wide range of topics is discussed, which seemingly
also inspired the narrator to come up with the term chautauqua.
Other than that, parallels can be found in the ´lecturer´
being on the road in the U.S.A., his attachment to rural areas,
and his system of day-trips in accordance with his chautauquas.
short history of the Chautauqua Movement
volume nine of ´The New Pelican Guide to English Literature´,
the one dedicated to ´American Literature´, I find
that "it was partly a yearning for self-improvement and
partly a simple need for entertainment in the long quiet farming
and small-town life that produced such phenomena as the Chautauqua
Movement, which may be summed up briefly (no easy matter) as
a programme of summer schools for the farming masses" (p.45)
Lyceum Movement was a somewhat similar idea that preceded the
Chautauquas. It was founded in 1826 in Massachusetts by Josiah
Holbrook as a pioneer attempt at community education (it "was
not limited to students in the academy, but was open to all
the townsfolk, young and old" [Harding 1966, p.29]), its
topics of lectures and debates ranging from morality to science.
This idea spread and soon a circuit was established, originally
an exchanging of lecturers between neighbouring lyceums. The
Lyceum Movement gained popularity and it was inextricably linked
to the Transcendentalists; R.W. Emerson (one of the first professional
lecturers) gave around 100 lectures at Concord Lyceum and H.D.
Thoreau read his ´Civil Disobedience´ publicly for
the first time at the same place in 1848.
in the lyceum was as close as they came to converting a truly
transcendental mode of utterance into popular success. This
indeed seemed to be a form in which unfrocked ministers could
display their talents to best advantage. Lecturing involved
many of the same oratorical techniques as preaching. It was
a rapidly expanding field; and above all, it was open-ended.
Anything was possible in the lecture room. ´You may laugh,
weep, reason, sing, sneer, or pray, according to your genius,´
Emerson told Carlyle" (Buell, p.52.).
literary icon of nineteenth-century America also lecturing at
the Lyceum Movement was Mark Twain.
began as a lecturer in 1866 in California and Nevada; in 1867
lectured in New York once and in the Mississippi valley a few
times, in 1868 made the whole Western circuit, and in the two
or three following seasons added the Eastern circuit to my route.
The ´Lyceum system´ was in full flower in those days"
´system´, as Twain called it, must have been inspiration
enough for John Vincent, a Methodist minister, to start a summer
school of a similar kind in 1874 at Lake Chautauqua in New York
state. In the following year President Ulysses S. Grant spoke
at the Chautauqua, which helped Vincent to establish a reputation
that was confirmed by lecturers like Thomas Edison, Booker T.
Washington, and Nobel Prize winner Jane Adams. Vincent´s
idea, to repeat, had an anti-elitist undercurrent, and traveling
to New York state was not possible especially for poorer people
who were interested. That way, daughter or independent assemblies
were beginning to spread across the country
program consisted of musicians of all kinds (opera ensembles,
string quartets, but also more lighthearted music), dramatic
productions, entertainment of all sorts, but the backbone of
the Chautauquas were lectures on topics like politics, morality
still with the permanent character of these Chautauquas, Keith
Vawter established what Pirsig calls "the traveling tent-show"
in 1904. This endeavor made it easier to reach also more rural
areas without being restricted to local talent performances.
Lecturers moved from town to town on a specific route, and thus
each town could be offered the same program. Three years later
this circuit, still run by Keith Vawter, visited thirty-three
towns and the program was revised and the three-day Chautauqua
became a seven-day event. A tent was set up as close to Main
Street as possible on Monday and on the following Sunday the
tent was taken down again, put into a railroad baggage car and
moved to another town.
Chautauqua Movement became a major social and also political
influence, and although the years of World War I interrupted
the circuits somewhat, in the years between 1920 and 1924 Chautauquas
reached their peak of attendances. In this heyday, celebrating
the fiftieth anniversary of the mother Chautauqua in New York
state, programs were presented in around ten-thousand towns
to approximately thirty million people, roughly on-third of
the nation´s population at that time. After that, attendance
began to decline; radio made its appearance on the cultural
scene, making available at people´s homes on a permanent
basis what up to that time had only been a once-in-a-year occasion.
Additionally, rural depression struck at the heart of the Chautauquas’
target-audience, the farming masses. The proliferation of automobiles
offered as yet unknown mobility also to poorer people and altered
the way people spent their times and means.
a consequence, the program focused on entertainment; magicians,
yodelers, and jugglers turned Chautauquas into something closely
resembling vaudevilles. The local civic leaders who had always
guaranteed the expenses were no longer willing and, especially
during the Great Depression, were not able to do so, and by
1933 the tent chautauquas had nearly all vanished. Only the
original Chautauqua Institute in New York and a few permanent
Who is Robert Pirsig, and how can he change your life? ...First
published in Crystal Ship 1 - Copyright J.D.Owen ©
the summer of '76, a book was finally published in paperback
form that I had long been waiting to read, but had never actually
managed to lay my hands on for a sufficient time to digest properly.
The book was the famous Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,
by Robert Pirsig.
enigmatic title is probably influenced by the Zen text-book
Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Nerrigel, but the
book has little to do with Zen, and is not very informative
about motorcycle maintenance, either. What the work does represent
is the poles of Man's thinking at this time, and ambitiously
attempts to bridge the gap between philosophy and technology,
through the pursuit of quality.
connection between Zen and keeping your motorcycle in good order
lies in the possibility of transcending the distinction between
subject, (the self), and object, (the world that is put against
the self - in this case the machine). Although it was the imposition
of this distinction in the first place which made scientific
thought and the resultant technological achievements possible,
it has now resulted in the alienation of Man from his world.
By transcending this fundamental facet of Western thought,and
so going beyond the limits of conventional rationality, we can
regain that harmony between our thoughts and values on the one
hand, and the parts and processes of the mechanical system on
the other. This harmony has been lost to the Western mind since
Plato imposed his idea of objectives on the Classical world.
The basic message of this book is therefore: Keep your mind
and your machine in tune together.
ideas emerge gradually in the form of a soliloquoy by a man
travelling across America on his cherished Honda motorbike,
with his eleven year old son, who rides pillion. The pattern
of the ideas as they emerge are reflected in the rise and fall
of the landscape and weather conditions. His son is as shut
off from his father's thoughts as he is shut off from the passing
scenery by his father's back. This journey, how-ever, is just
the framework for the book, as the real journey is through time
and ideas, tracing the path of a man's life through his search
for the foundations of reason and value, which takes him through
the frontiers of insanity.
book has a true basis for Pirsig actually experienced, agonisingly,
the whole process himself, finally being admitted to a mental
hospital,where he under went a course of electro-shock treatment
to alter his personality. A constant undercurrent in the book
is the slow discovery and assimilation of his previous character,(the
ominous Phaedrus), into his overall personality. In many ways,
I would not be surprised to learn that Pirsig had never intended
to publish this book, and that he wrote it only to assemble
the fractured pieces of his two personalities together into
one cohesive whole.
book is truly investigative psychology, with regard to the relationship
between damaged father and almost certainly damaged son, as
well as being a superb travelogue and carrier for Pirsig's comprehensive
attitudes to the best methods of tackling life.
have seen reviews which suggested that the philosophic arguments
in the book are crude and naive, but as they were written by
academic philosophers, these reviews can be considered to be
biased. Speaking personally, the views expressed in Pirsig's
book feel right. They are meaningful,and have great relevance
to the problems of people struggling to have some kind of individual
identity in this crazy world that Science and Technology have
fashioned for us. The posturings of the 'philosophers' are nowadays
so arcane and incomprehemsible, that their very credibility
should be warned, however, that this is not a book to curl up
with, for read properly it stimulates too many loose nerve endings.
This is one of those books that can genuinely turn your head
right around,and rearrange and unjumble clogged syuapses in
a way totally beneficial to your whole mental outlook. At least
it had that effect on my mind, and on others who have read the
himself is an enigma. Forty-eight years old, he was the son
of a law school dean, and was strongly influenced by his father's
academic background. He accumulated degrees in chemistry, philosophy
and journalism, and attended the Benares Hindu Universityin
India. While studying and teaching both rhetoric and philosophy,
he struggled to remove the educational barriers between the
rational (science-based) and the romantic (arts-based). The
struggle was traumatic, culminating in a mental breakdown and
two years spent in and out of hospitals. He was finally 'rehabilitated'
by electro-shock treatment and released. Zen was Pirsig's
way of putting the past behind him, and he is now working with
the aid of a Guggenheim Fellowship on two further books. One
is a study of cultural anthropology focusing on race relations,
(which he says the critics will destroy him for because it will
be so dull), and the other is a comparison between witch burning
and mental institutions, pointing out the basic similarities
in operation, as both are intended as a means of control, not
and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is the beginning of
a way of dealing with the irrationality of our Seventies I only
hope that other people can pick up where Pirsig stopped, and
continue to weave his ideas back into the cloth of our society
in order to alter it into something where all human beings can
develop to their full potential. With this book,Robert Pirsig
has more than done his share.
FAQ... Questions and Answers about ZMM
this web site you will find photos, travel information,
essays, and links concerning the book Zen and the Art of
Motorcycle Maintenance (ZMM) by Robert Pirsig. This information
has been collected through the collaborative efforts of
many people. If you are one of those persons, Pirsig enthusiasts
around the world thank you. Explore this site and see what
your efforts have accomplished! --
Questions and Answers about ZMM
can I send a message to Mr. Robert Pirsig?
can write to him via his publisher as follows: Mr. Robert Pirsig
care of: William Morrow Company
1350 Avenue of the Americas
York, NY 10019
you give me his US Mail or his Email address?
He does not want any address given out.
did you get those pictures from Pirsig's trip? Did he provide
them to you?
pictures from Pirsig's original 1968 trip were sent to me by
Pirsig himself. I had asked him if there were any pictures that
could be used to find the actual locations of scenes along the
"ZMM Route". He had seen my (sufficiently substantial)
web pages at that time, and his response was to send me the
pictures for ZMM research and to place on these ZMMquality WebPages.
be interested to know a little about you and your relationship
in approximately 1993, I had my students read ZMM as part of
their physics class requirements. (See my ZMM paragraph on my
"Professor of Physics" WebPage. This may be accessed
thru the ZMMquality Links Page. Click on it upper left.) I found
that the ZMM book was a very successful adjunct for: 1) The
students' study of Physics, 2) Their overall understanding of
the processes of learning, and 3) How to deal with "Gumption
Traps". Moreover, ZMM's "Church of Reason" chapters
helped my students to constructively understand what was supposed
to happen at a university as opposed to what was actually happening!
Or perhaps I should say, what was NOT happening. This experience
prompted me, soon thereafter, to write to Pirsig with a number
wanted additional "data" to justify (to other possibly
concerned parties) why I was using ZMM every year in my physics
classes. For example, I wanted to find out the names of Colleges
and Universities that used ZMM in their classes. I wanted to
learn how they actually used ZMM. I wanted to gather data/testimonials
as to ZMM's contribution to their students' overall learning
and intellectual maturity. Also I asked Pirsig about maps of
the ZMM Route.
in a 9 July 1994 response, stated: "In answer to your question
b), I would estimate that somewhere between 10 and 60 percent
of colleges and high schools use ZMM in one or more courses.
Usually these are literature of philosophy courses, sometimes
psychology and sociology --- rarely science. U.S. sales have
been running about 100,000 per year for the last 20 years, a
really unusual figure. It has been stated in the London Daily
Telegraph and by the BBC that ZMM is the 'most widely read philosophy
book --- ever'. I give credit to the academic system for this,
but I don't have any accurate information on who is using it
or where it is being used." As for the maps, he directed
me to the map/itinerary in DiSanto and Steel's "Guidebook
to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance".
years later, I found passages from author Owen Barfield (appendix
of his book "Poetic Diction") that had very interesting
conclusions about "The Subject-Object Split"; it's
history, and other ramifications. What Barfield said confirmed
what Pirsig had said in ZMM on this same topic. I sent Xerox
copies these passages, with letter of explanation, to Pirsig.
might here add that Owen Barfield (as well as Michael Polanyi)
seems to have arrived at many many conclusions that agree with
Pirsig's major assertions in ZMM. What is very significant to
me is that Barfield's and Polanyi's "general agreement
with Pirsig" (on many major points) was achieved independently
and by completely different starting points and routes of travel,
than those of Pirsig.
these reasons I had hoped that Pirsig might be moved to actually
study Barfield. In his reply, Pirsig said that he was glad to
hear someone else agreed with him. But I could tell by his reply
that he was dis-inclined to pursue the matter further. Through
these years, I wrote perhaps three/four letters to Pirsig requesting
information. He fully and promptly answered all of them.
I was making plans to actually travel the "ZMM Route",
in early 2002, I began to search diligently for various persons
who had already actually traveled the ZMM Route. I wanted to
learn what they had found, in preparation for my own ZMM research
trip. I wanted to build on what they had found and I did not
want to waste time by duplicating unnecessarily their effort.
I was able to make a just a few successful contacts and about
half of these persons contributed essays for my WebPages. I
had hoped this would be a way gain useful ZMM Route information,
but overall this approach was disappointing. Given the relative
unsuccessful quantity of information found, I finally decided
to write Pirsig. The fact that I had gone to considerable effort,
as shown in my WebPages at that time, must have been convincing
to Pirsig, because he was quite helpful. He provided maps, literature
resources, and many suggestions. Most of his contributions are
now incorporated into my "Travel Guide to ZMM" WebPage.
Click on it upper left.
have been hoping to hear Pirsig's voice some day. Has someone
posted a mp3 file of him speaking?
am not aware of any recordings of his voice. If I find any useful
information I will post it here. I invite readers to send in
their suggestions if they have any information to offer.
is the correct Model and Number of Mr. Pirsig's motorcycle shown
in the photographs on your ZMMquality.org/Gallery?
Ken Steiner writes the following: "I would like to mention
that the motorcycle in the first photo is identified as a Honda
CB360. The correct designation is a CB 77 305 Super Hawk. I
believe the CB360 was manufactured at a much later date. ….
The [links below] provides a photo of the CB360 and additional
descriptive information. The Honda CB360 was manufactured from
1974 to 1976. I had rebuilt and owned a 1966 Honda CL77 305,
This is a very similar bike to the CB77 pictured on the web-photo.
They use the same engine, but the CB77 frame is configured for
street and trip use while the CL77 is more of a sport bike that
can be used off-road. In any case the photo is not that of a
CB360. http://www.vjmw.org/tests/CB360.htm Here is a
link depicting the CB77: http://www.honda305.com/cb77_000/cb77-006.htm
Note: The captions of those 12 pictures from Mr. Pirsig were
written by him personally except for my additions in [brackets].
designation = " A. CB360_~l.TIF" was the original
computer file name that went with that picture. It was his own
abbreviation to indicate in his computer files which-picture-was-what.
I believe he used this same abbreviation in each of the photo
captions as he composed them prior to sending them to me. And
that is the caption I placed on each of those 12 pictures you
saw on my web gallery. I have seen the designation as 305 Super
Hawk several places on the web, but of course there is no adequate
way to verify this source of information. I will eventually
write to Mr. Pirsig for clarification.
Elena's Motorcycle Trip Through Chernobyl
ride through the Chernobyl area - A story about a town where
you can ride with no stoplights, no police, no danger of hitting
a car, or a dog.
woman named Elena posted a travelogue on the web about her solitary
motorcycle ride through the deserted area around Chernobyl.
With all the eerie pictures she took of the abandoned, irradiated
'ghost town,' her travelogue is one of the most linked-to sites
on the net.
Guidebook to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance ...by
Ron Di Santo (Author), Tom Steele (Author)
Description - When Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle
Maintenance was first published in 1974, it caused a literary
sensation. An entire generation was profoundly affected by the
story of the narrator, his son, Chris, and their month-long
motorcycle odyssey from Minnesota to California. A combination
of philosophical speculation and psychological tension, the
book is a complex story of relationships, values, madness, and,
DiSanto and Thomas Steele have spent years investigating the
background and underlying symbolism of Pirsig's work. Together,
and with the approval of Robert Pirsig, they have written a
fascinating reference/companion to the original
to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance serves as a metaphorical
backpack of supplies for the reader's journey through the original
work. With the background material, insights, and perspectives
the authors provide, Guidebook to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle
Maintenance is destined to become required reading for new fans
of the book as well as those who have returned to it over the
- Reviewer: from Palo Alto, CA USA ...For fans of ZMM, this
is an incredible book that summarizes various aspects of the
ZMM book. First and foremost, it gives you the necessary background
on philosophy to get a better understanding of where the Pirsig
is coming from.
it is great studying material for those of us who're interested
in getting deeper into the issues that Pirsig gets to in the
ZMM. Particularly, I liked the section in this book that relates
Quality with Taoist principles.
- Reviewer: A reader from Woodinville, WA United States
...Additional background material, both philosophical and historical,
really illuminates the original Pirsig book. The bonus is sometimes
startling insights, and new questions (often unanswered for
the reader to work out). Think of it as an informal but well-written
textbook by teachers who care both about the material and the
student. It lures the reader into further self-study in epistemology,
metaphysics, aesthetics, and ethics. Contains valuable passages
that were edited out of the original Pirsig book.
Urban Dharma Newsletter Archives:
Los Angeles Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue: