Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


Robert Pirsig

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

The travelers reach Miles City, Montana, and are in noticeably higher spirits after a relaxing night at a hotel. While others run errands, the narrator tunes his motorcycle and muses that the process is a largely rational one. He expands upon this idea, saying that the process that allows for the taxonomical organization of the components of a motorcycle is the same idea that allows for all sorts of systematic hierarchies across the world. However, although governments and technology may be products of this “system,” rejecting these products isn’t the way to address the unfulfilling aspects of systematic thought.
In this discourse, the narrator uses motorcycle maintenance as a means of explaining the way the classical outlook manifests itself in human affairs.
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The narrator goes to a friendly mechanic’s shop to get a motorcycle part, and notices that the mechanic works very efficiently even though his shop is disorganized. He meets back up with John, Sylvia, and Chris for dinner. The narrator explains that right-wing politics dominate the state, and that the college in Bozeman was so conservative that it deemed Eleanor Roosevelt too much of a radical to speak there. Leaving town, the narrator recognizes a bench that Phaedrus has slept on as he made his way to that college in Bozeman.
As the narrator approaches Bozeman, he encounters more and more reminders of Phaedrus’s existence. This suggests that a fuller confrontation with Phaedrus will take place in the future.
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