Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Motorcycle Maintenance Symbol Analysis

Motorcycle Maintenance Symbol Icon
Motorcycle maintenance is, not surprisingly, the central symbol of the text. It is used as a real-life practice that can serve as a conduit for an individual’s awareness of Quality. Across his Chautauquas, the narrator details the ways in which individuals can use motorcycle repair to cultivate “peace of mind” and a focus on simply being present, all of which contribute to a way of life that is mindful of Quality. In essence, motorcycle maintenance serves as a concrete vessel for the narrator’s abstract theses about Quality and its proper role in an individual’s life.

Motorcycle Maintenance Quotes in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance quotes below all refer to the symbol of Motorcycle Maintenance. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Quality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the HarperTorch edition of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance published in 1974.
Chapter 2 Quotes

And it occurred to me there is no manual that deals with the real business of motorcycle maintenance, the most important aspect of all. Caring about what you are doing is considered either unimportant or taken for granted.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: Motorcycle Maintenance
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

What we have here is a conflict of visions of reality. The world as you see it right here, right now, is reality, regardless of what the scientists say it might be. That’s the way John sees it. But the world as revealed by its scientific discoveries is also reality, regardless of how it may appear, and people in John’s dimension are going to have to do more than just ignore it if they want to hang on to their vision of reality. …
What you’ve got here, really, are two realities, one of immediate artistic appearance and one of underlying scientific explanation, and they don’t match and they don’t fit and they don’t really have much of anything to do with one another. That’s quite a situation. You might say there’s a little problem here.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), John Sutherland
Related Symbols: Motorcycle Maintenance
Page Number: 68-69
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 14 Quotes

This divorce of art from technology is completely unnatural. It’s just that it’s gone on so long you have to be an archeologist to find out where the two separated. Rotisserie assembly is actually a long-lost branch of sculpture, so divorced from its roots by centuries of intellectual wrong turns that just to associate the two sounds ludicrous.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: Motorcycle Maintenance
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 24 Quotes

There has been a haze, a backup problem in this Chautauqua so far; I talked about caring the first day and then realized I couldn’t say anything meaningful about caring until its inverse side, Quality, is understood. I think it’s important now to tie care to Quality by pointing out that care and Quality are internal and external aspects of the same thing. A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares. A person who cares about what he sees and does is a person who’s bound to have some characteristics of Quality.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: Motorcycle Maintenance, The Glass Door
Page Number: 353
Explanation and Analysis:

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Stuckness shouldn’t be avoided. It’s the psychic predecessor of all real understanding. An egoless acceptance of stuckness is a key to an understanding of all Quality, in mechanical work as in other endeavors. It’s this understanding of Quality as revealed by stuckness which so often makes self-taught mechanics so superior to institute-trained men who have learned how to handle everything except a new situation.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: Motorcycle Maintenance
Page Number: 366
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 26 Quotes

If you’re going to repair a motorcycle, an adequate supply of gumption is the first and most important tool. If you haven’t got that you might as well gather up all the other tools and put them away, because they won’t do you any good.

Gumption is the psychic gasoline that keeps the whole thing going. If you haven’t got it there’s no way the motorcycle can possibly be fixed. But if you have got it and know how to keep it there’s absolutely no way in this whole world that motorcycle can keep from getting fixed. It’s bound to happen. Therefore the thing that must be monitored at all times and preserved before anything else is the gumption.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: Motorcycle Maintenance
Page Number: 389-390
Explanation and Analysis:

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Motorcycle Maintenance Symbol Timeline in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The timeline below shows where the symbol Motorcycle Maintenance appears in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
Zen Theme Icon
...down, yet John has inconvenienced himself by rebuffing the narrator’s efforts to teach him about motorcycle maintenance . There are very few shops in middle America that can repair John’s motorcycle, a... (full context)
Chapter 6
Identity Theme Icon
Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
Duality Theme Icon
...towards emotions and intuitions. The narrator explains that motorcycle riding is a romantic experience, while motorcycle maintenance is more of a classic task. (full context)
Chapter 24
Quality Theme Icon
Zen Theme Icon
...scientific reality,” and “Quality is the goal of Art”—by showing how they come together in motorcycle maintenance . (full context)
Chapter 25
Quality Theme Icon
Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
Duality Theme Icon
Zen Theme Icon
...work, and instead enter a state of “just doing.” When conducted properly, the act of motorcycle maintenance prevents one from separating one’s self from one’s surroundings. This reformed individual consciousness is, to... (full context)
Chapter 26
Quality Theme Icon
Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
Zen Theme Icon
...which come from the individual himself. He details several setback scenarios as they relate to motorcycle maintenance , such as failing parts and intermittently functional machinery. (full context)
Quality Theme Icon
Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
Duality Theme Icon
Zen Theme Icon
...the context of his inquiry in order to properly understand the phenomenon being studied. In motorcycle maintenance , mu answers to questions may point a mechanic to the true nature of the... (full context)
Quality Theme Icon
Duality Theme Icon
Zen Theme Icon
...gumption traps by warning that an understanding of possible traps isn’t enough to ensure flawless motorcycle maintenance . Most importantly of all, one must live one’s entire life in a way that... (full context)