Comparing Pirsig's Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance

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In Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the narrator refers to the story of the novel, his 19 day journey, as a Chautauqua. The traveling culture show broadened the experiences of everyday Americans in the 1920s and Pirsig’s version achieved the same result more than 50 years later. As Chautauqua was replaced by more conventional forms of entertainment, depth of art was exchanged for breadth. The vapid rhetoric of television and radio magnified the concept of commercialism and embedded the idea of a ‘thing’ required for self-fulfillment. As the traveling Chautauqua, television, and radio spread false insights into achieving ‘true happiness’ or self-fulfillment by way of a single external goal, ZAMM and the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man aimed to prove the opposite. The two pieces prove human beings are forever in transit, looking for a physical answer to their inner turmoil when the answer lies in self-reflection. Ghosts do not change who you are. They are only reminders of what you were, and, therefore, are not the subject of self-improvement. The narrator mentions Phaedrus waiting at the top of the mountain. “If he’s up there,…show more content…
“These gloved hands I now look at, steering the motorcycle down the road, were once his!” (88) The narrator fears the resurgence of Phaedrus within himself. And yet, when deciding to replace the same gloves, the author balks. “They only cost three dollars and have been restitched so many times it is getting impossible to repair them… That is impractical, but practicality isn’t the whole thing with gloves” (Pirsig 44) He retains the gloves in spite of its significance to his former self because he realizes caring for the gloves and himself are one and the same. He has equated the struggle to keep his gloves intact to the struggle to solve his

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