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The Wisdom of Motorcycle Maintenance

Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” is a famous story exploring value, purpose, and satisfaction. It tells the story of the wisdom we discover for ourselves. I read it a few times in college, for both a writing class as well as a philosophy class.

It is a compelling book. It caught me at a time of life when I was starting to think deep questions, and it seemed like it was addressing all of them. Yet because the book is autobiographical, these questions were being answered within the soul of another person, and that was highly unsettling. It seem like an invasion of privacy. Then again, the lessons he was teaching were made all the more authentic because they came from within him.

I liked the idea of learning about life through a focus on a simple physical activity. Maintaining and using a motorcycle can be readily understood, and your relationship with the machine can serve as a forum of learning about yourself. I find the same benefit in my martial arts practice today: your relationship with your body is a reflection of how you relate to yourself.

People always ask me if riding a motorcycle makes them a higher risk from a life insurance underwriting point of view. The basic answer is no. However, if you race motorcycles, or have a history of motor vehicle violations such as frequent speeding, then you can expect a bit of a problem.