Article Text

Download PDFPDF
A personal response to: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
  1. James Willis
  1. General Practitioner, Alton, Hampshire

    Statistics from

    Request Permissions

    If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

    “Unless you are fond of hollering you don't make great conversations on a running cycle. Instead you spend your time being aware of things and meditating on them. On sights and sounds, on the mood of the weather and things remembered, on the machine and the countryside you're in, thinking about things at great leisure and length without being hurried and without feeling that you are losing time”. (p 17)J Med Ethics: Medical Humanities 2000;26:110–112

    The gentle voice is incredibly familiar, heard now for the third time, a voice that seems to have got itself into my deepest being.

    Not that I came to the book very quickly. I never do. It had all the hallmarks of a fashion, way back in the early seventies when people used to talk about it. Zen—motorcycles—ugh. All far too flower-powery for me. But I've made up for it since.

    I can't remember who persuaded me to try it, but when I eventually did I understood enough of it to want to read it again. Very carefully. In fact I highlighted great chunks of it the second time, in a rather ugly, green highlighter, and then lent the copy to somebody and never saw it again. Which is just as well, I don't think highlighter is the way to summarise an odyssey, to capture the sound of that motorcycle in the empty vastness of minor-road prairie America, or the voice of Pirsig as he quietly unfolds the many purposes of his wonderful book. His sensing of that coming storm (the returning ghost) long before the first thin line of cloud is visible on the far horizon. Long before his son, Chris, close behind him on the bike but terribly distant, senses it, or their travelling companions John and Sylvia do, up the road ahead …

    View Full Text


    • James Willis is a General Practitioner in Alton, Hampshire.