It was with great excitement that I listened to Peter Flannery’s dramatisation of Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on Radio 4. I remembered reading the book in the ‘70s and catching the enthusiasm of the teacher in the narrative departing from the curriculum to inspire his students in the search for ‘Quality’ which though it can be recognised, cannot be neatly defined, and so puts into question the academic discipline of philosophy as it is taught today.
Alongside the philosophical themes which dominate the book, Peter Flannery has vividly brought to life the poignancy of the motor cycle trip across America that the father undertakes in an attempt to heal the rift with his depressed young son. A rift that started with the father’s mental breakdown and before any reconciliation can take place he needs fully to face the split in himself. We are led to see how it mirrors very starkly the split in our culture epitomised in the book as that between the Platonic and Aristotelian world views.
I highly recommend this radio play which is available for 30 days from October 11th 2014 and can also be downloaded and purchased on-line:
Image: Robert Pirsig and his son Chris on the seventeen day trip that inspired the book:
‘the real motorcycle is a cycle called yourself’