25 years after the first read, I have just re-read ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance‘ by Robert Pirsig, and absolutely loved it. It never was an easy read, cantering as it does through philosophy in a way that does educate you about philosophical positions from a tangent, but only in pursuit of the author’s view on Quality, and how it is the defining force behind, well pretty much everything that has developed.
Whether you agree with the evaluation, the positioning of Quality as a worthy pursuit, and far better than just passively consuming pretty baubles or going through the motions at work is one I hugely support. I know that if I do something I am not proud of, and think is high quality, it hurts me. That goes for work people do for me as well – if people don’t really care about doing the best they can, I find it much harder to take them seriously. And, to be clear, doing the best you can do is not about some logical ‘adding the most shareholder value’ pursuit, even though that is a very sensible goal. It’s about doing it for yourself, and your own sense of pride and self-worth.
One other thing I found interesting in re-reading was the different perception I had. The first time, I was lapping it up, and then got turned off a bit by the story thread that dealt with madness. I identified with the narrator, but resented the implication that the point of view could drive you mad. So, my memory was enjoying the first half and disliking the second half. This time I was expecting that thread of the story, and actually enjoyed the second half just as much as the first – it wasn’t at all what I had remembered, not so much in content terms but emotional reaction. Just shows that the frame of mind within which you read something is pretty much as important as the content itself.
This remains one of those books that everyone should read – I am passing it Alan’s way as soon as his GCSE’s are done. BTW, you don’t have to buy it to read it, the full text is available on-line – e.g. here, or here.