December 21, 2008

Zen and Now

Okay. There's an unwritten rule (come to think of it, it's probably a written one, somewhere, as well) that plugging a book your boss wrote would be unseemly. It would promote much eye-rolling and snickering, if not out-and-out having knee pads pelted at you by fellow writers.

The thing is, I really like Mark Richardson's book Zen and Now. And it defies a genre, which most of my favourite books seem to, so it's important to make sure a broad cross-section of you cross its path.

Who has a copy of The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig on their shelves? Who's read it? Who's tried to? Who's given up once? Twice? Who's returned to it, finally gotten through it, and finally understood it? It's one of those books that has a point, but your personal planets have to align before you can get it. If you even want to. Pirsig was a whackadoodle, frankly, and while fellow whackadoodles might enjoy playing in that sandbox, for others, it can take some heavy lifting to get the point.

It took Richardson a few stabs at it, as he reveals in his own tome. But basically, it's this: Prisig plopped his young son on a motorcycle and made his way across most of the northern States and down into California. Kind of a road trip philosophy lesson, with a whackadoodle driving. His book has remained a classic.

Richardson followed the route on his own bike. Many others have done the route, but Richardson actually found the same people Pirsig stayed with and spoke to. But if this were the whole book, it would just be a road trip feature for the Wheels section.

Instead, this book is for anyone who has been 40, or plans to be. It's for anyone who believes some alone time - fierce alone time - will clear out the demons. It's for anyone who has had the urge to click off the miles and actually feel the wind and the pavement, and focus only on the task at hand. Zen and Now, Richardson's book, isn't really about motorcycles and road trips, though that is the template. No, it's what dangles from that template that makes it worth the read. Not only can you not leave much behind, you can't help but accumulating more as you go. It's like throwing off all your worldly possessions and worries, and finding out they're all boomerangs.

It's an honest piece; men will see themselves, women will learn something about men, and while it may not make you want to learn to ride a motorcycle, it'll make you feel like you did.

Check out his site here. Any gaps under the tree, fill it with this.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought Neil Peart's Ghost Rider was very much the same idea, only much more personal. Talk about getting rid of demons. Losing a daughter in a truck accident, then a wife to cancer.

December 21, 2008 11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the point is that you don't have to lose everything in order to discover its worth.

We're a nation of extremes - I've read both books, and what Pirsig took great pains to catalogue is just more easily found in Richardson's. Prisig's is deeper, but it's so hard to wade through that most gave up.

And, I don't think you're a sellout, Lorraine. We learned that with the RR stuff....

December 21, 2008 7:38 PM  

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