Testimonials – by people whose own lives and works were influenced by the work of Robert Pirsig. (Anyone is invited to submit a testimonial and we’ll be happy to link to your work where appropriate.
JOHN HINDLE – WRITER
“I first read ZMM as a junior in high school. I happened to be browsing in the school library and saw the title which got me interested. I had been reading Carl Sagan which inspired my interest in science but ZMM took me in a new direction and inspired my interest in philosophy. I read all of Plato’s dialogues that year. Then began my interest in Eastern spirituality, inspired by Bob’s, and I began reading Buddhist literature. I also started doing my own creative writing inspired by the gorgeous descriptions of the west by Bob. After I graduated high school I became a student at our state university where I was laterally drifting as Bob put it. I was skipping classes and reading Chinese poetry such as the Tao. From there I enrolled in Loyola University while living with my parents in New Orleans where I took a class in Zen meditation. Having been enchanted by Bob’s descriptions of the West I moved to Denver where I continued doing Zen meditation while living in the YMCA and working at an insurance company. But I was a recluse back then. So eventually, by my choice, I went to a country club mental hospital where I read ZMM twice while a patient and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. While living with my grandparents, whom I grew up with until high school, to recover I wrote a short story that won 1st prize and was published in the contest at the college I attended there. This story was inspired both by Thoreau’s “Walden” and the western scenes of ZMM. Then I read “Lila”. This inspired my interest in anthropology. I went on to get a degree in creative writing and then anthropology graduating with departmental honors in anthropology. My love of the West, inspired by Bob, led me to road trips to the New Mexico and the Grand Canyon. Later I used excerpts from Lila in a class I taught for several years to mentally ill people. Both books shaped my fascination with Eastern and western philosophy and later Native American and primitive cultures. I attribute my academic and writing success to ZMM. I have self published 24 books of fiction and poetry in the last twenty years and ZMM gave me my start in writing.”
LOUISA SMITH – EPIC BOOK SOCIETY
“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig is a truly captivating masterpiece that’s still as prevalent today as it was when it was written. Pirsig’s writing style, although reads like fiction, effortlessly transports the reader on a thought-provoking journey of self-discovery and introspection. Once you start reading, you’ll never be the same again. This is the only philosophical book you’ll ever need, nor want to read.”
Dr PRANAY SANKLECHA – University of Graz – 50 YEARS OF ZMM
“The world is troubled and times are tough. We live in a time of deep uncertainty. What is the world going to look like in 10 years? We are living at an inflection point in human history. Everything is in play, even such fundamental questions as the future of the human world and what it means to be human at all. In such times, what we need more than anything else is wisdom. Robert Pirsig was a true philosopher. His book is a serious, sustained and passionate ‘inquiry into values’. He asks: what is really valuable? What truly matters? His work, is essential reading for anyone searching for wisdom in our times.”
Prof ANNA MARIE ROOS –History of Science, Lincoln University, UK
“I used ZMM concerning Pirsig’s diagnosis of the mechanical problems with his motorcycle to teach scientific induction to my university students. I put this exercise on the internet, which lead Henry Gurr to contact me. It is wonderful that there will be an anniversary celebration of Pirsig’s work, exhibit and reissue of ZMM so new generations of students will benefit from it.”
NICK SUMMERHAYES – Ops & Support Specialist, Headway Systems, NZ
“I describe myself as an IT Luddite living in Christchurch, New Zealand. I first read ZMM when I was eighteen years old, and focussed on the motorcycle trip and glossed over the philosophy. Since then, I must have read it another twenty times and Lila ten times, with my priorities reversed.
Science and technology are wonderful, but, alone, they are not equipped to save us and the planet. It’s imperative that they are guided by Quality, values, morals. Robert Pirsig revealed that not only is value within everything, it is the source of all things. Value needs to supplant truth in our philosophy, assuming we have a (western) philosophy. We don’t need to ask if Einstein’s gravity is more true than Newton’s gravity, but which has the most value in a given application. From an early age, I’ve wondered how the Universe can exist, or not exist. I think it’s a curse of my western, scientific, three dimensional, upbringing. Stumbling along the uneven road of logic, I would reach a point as I pondered the objects’ existence, that hit me as a panic attack and struck me as insanity, and do my best to stop thinking about it.
I wonder if Pirsig’s object-less value being the source of the objects and all things, can take that fear of insanity away.”
“A high school teacher learned I was interested in motorcycles and suggested I read ZMM. It took me a few years to get around to it, but when I did I was … confused, at best. I really had no idea what I was reading beyond the bare openings of a travelogue featuring my favorite brand at the time, Honda, and some twitchy dude on a BMW.
I tried ZMM again in my early 30s – now with over a decade of riding experience under my belt. I no longer rode Hondas, but instead had moved on to BMWs and learned how to work on them. I still didn’t understand the book, but more pieces of it made sense. In my 40s, I once again set out to decipher ZMM and … well, failed much less miserably that time. I feel like I got about 80% of it this time around, and perhaps it was because of my love of working on my BMW motorcycles and underlying desire to once again ride a tiny Honda and feel those feelings.
Now I’m in my mid-50s and preparing to read the latest edition of ZMM, the one with Crawford’s introduction. *His* book, I understood right away, and I’m hoping I’ll finally have my mind opened by ZMM the way I’ve heard so many claim to have had their mind opened by it. The reality is, I think a lot of folks struggled with it just like I did over the years, but didn’t want anybody to know they didn’t get it, so they just muddled through. I’m happy to say I didn’t understand it at all, then gradually gathered more insights as I grew in experience with each re-reading.
I can hardly wait for the first reading in my 60s.”
IAN GLENDINNING – Systems Thinker & Philosophy Researcher
“I came to Pirsig’s work late in life, after 25 years as an industrial systems engineer. The more we modelled business systems – human organisation and asset information – using objects and logical relations in computer systems, the greater my nagging doubts that we were missing something. I was already researching what that was, when I stumbled across the suggestion there was something about ‘Eastern’ thought that was more fundamental than even physics(!) – by a Nobel prize-winning physicist(!) no less – Brian Josephson in Cambridge. That shock triggered a vague memory – what was the name of that book about Zen and Engineering I’d remembered from previously unread reading lists?
This techy ‘STEM’ nerd had his mind expanded – into an unused half a brain – in discovering an alternative world of wisdom in two works of literary – fictional / rhetorical – narrative, of the kind I would never previously have read. Prompted by the critical comparisons with Dostoevsky and Melville – I have for the subsequent 25 years become a “born again” reader of any & all philosophical literature as well as philosophy / psychology / neuro-science texts generally.
To this day the evolutionary framework of Pirsig’s four layer Metaphysics of Quality, and the primacy of the ‘Quality’ of immediate engagement in, and (moral) attention to, the world have informed the worldview I have learned from every other thought since. Pirsig was my introduction to that world.
In a world seemingly gone mad, and incapable of getting to grips with ever more existential poly-crises or meta-crises besetting humanity and the planet, Pirsig can introduce more of us, more urgently than ever, to where wisdom lies.”
ARTUN TURAN – Finance Manager
“I knew the book as we had a copy at my childhood home; a close friend of my father gifted him a copy of ZMM with a note in front: ‘You have to do the maintenance work after a certain age.’ The title was hard to forget, but I did not read it for years, not until after high school when I saw a copy at a second-hand bookstore and got my own copy.
During the first round of reading, I thought the Classical-Romantic split as a way to look at social conflicts was brilliant; it immediately influenced how I approached disagreements in my own life.
I was tempted to look for more and read it a second time, then noticed that the descriptions in the travelogue were intentionally aligned with that day’s Chautauqua – looking back, I think this set me on a quest to look closely at what this mystery writer was trying to convey as he carefully built up every page. Before I managed to get a PDF copy years later, I had re-read it many times, naming chapters and extracting the part beyond the travelogue.
Reading ‘Lila’ set me on a quest to trace Bob’s references, partly to satisfy the thirst to really know if what he was saying was true – as what I read claimed to connect a post-modern converging world understanding well beyond where the Western philosophical canon is dated – but more so, I would be able to point out external references to support his corrections to the dead thinking that is holding back the possibility of settling so many conflicts. I started with the referenced texts, and before long, I found myself navigating the most interesting writing, all by good men trying to better the world.
Bob’s writing certainly changed the course of my life – a fusion reactor powering an endless quest for Quality – to try & fail & try again; with care, everything gets better, and this quest tends to spread out and make a real difference.”
SILVIO FUNTOWICZ – University of Bergen
“The book that changed my life: Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. Pirsig’s book was our main source of inspiration on Quality in the development of Post-Normal Science. Complemented by William Edwards Deming ‘participatory’ practice of quality control. The study of the art of motorcycle maintenance is really a miniature study of the art of rationality itself. Working on a motorcycle, working well, caring, is to become part of a process, to achieve an inner peace of mind. The motorcycle is primarily a mental phenomenon.”
MICHAEL LEWIS – Author
“The book that changed my life was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. I read it right before my final department exams (art history) in my senior year in college and was so smitten that I attempted to imitate its style on my exam answers, with predictable results. This book might be the reason I’m not an art historian.”
Do you have a testimonial to share? Let us know via the contact form.