Quotations from “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”


So we move down the empty road.  I don’t want to own these prairies, or photograph them, or change them, or even stop or even keep going.  We are just moving down the empty road.


... I think now that more and more people are seeing it, or get glimpses of it in bad moments, a ghost which calls itself rationality but whose appearance is that of incoherence and meaninglessness, which causes the most normal of everyday acts to seem slightly mad because of their irrelevance to anything else.  This is the ghost of everyday assumptions which declares that the ultimate purpose of life, which is to keep alive, is impossible, but that this is the ultimate purpose of life anyway, so that great minds struggle to cure diseases so that people may live longer, but only madmen ask why.


This is all so new.  And we are so in need of it, a new rain.  My clothes become wet, and goggles are spattered, and chills start and feel delicious.  The cloud passes from beneath the sun and the forest of pines and small meadows gleams again, sparkling where the sunlight catches the small drops from the rain.


It’s a problem of our time.  The range of human knowledge today is so great that we’re all specialists and the distance between specializations has become so great that anyone who seeks to wander freely among them almost has to forgo closeness with the people around him.  The lunchtime here-and-now stuff is a specialty too.


So what you have to do, if you get caught in this gumption trap of value rigidity, is slow down – you’re going to have to slow down anyway whether you want to or not – but slow down deliberately and go over ground that you’ve been over before to see if the things you thought were important were really important and to . . . well . . . just stare at the machine.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Just live with it for a while.  Watch it the way you watch a line when fishing and before long, as sure as you live, you’ll get a little nibble, a little fact asking in a timid, humble way if you’re interested in it.  That’s the way the world keeps on happening.  Be interested in it.

(After a while you may find that the nibbles you get are more interesting than your original purpose of fixing the machine.  When that happens you’ve reached a kind of point of arrival.  Then you’re no longer strictly a motorcycle mechanic, you’re also a motorcycle scientist, and you’ve completely conquered the gumption trap of value rigidity.)


The road has become so dark I have to turn on my headlight now to follow it through these mists and rain.