Good is a noun: Why “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” is a life-changing book


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In the light of the recent passing of the book’s author Robert Pirsig, it would do well to be aware (if not outright familiar) with why this novel/meditation has been so well received and has gained classic status in modern literature. For one, the title can be confusing and misleading to many.

“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” involves the two-wheelers, yes. The main characters are a father and his son who are undertaking a long trip across country-road America. Along the way, the first-person narrator (in the persona of the father) discusses in detail many technical aspects of how to best care for a motorcycle.

But it won’t take the reader long to figure out that these episodes into bike mechanism and tinkering are but sidetracks in the novel’s open road. Moreover, these meticulous details come across more as metaphors for world views, modern age perspectives, and Zen Buddhism.

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Readers will quickly get hooked on the thought-provoking, humanist views of science and religion, as well as the characters’ plot-driven adventures on the road. The narrator calls these explorations into philosophy “Chautauquas,” long discourses on modern-day living and Zen. These get expounded on by his alter ego called Phaedrus, who takes the brunt of the exposition for chapters that delve deep into what he calls “metaphysics of quality.”

As some point, the dad-narrator surrenders to his fictive “other” Phaedrus personality, driven not so much by the plot but by his troubled mind, which actually becomes most lucid, most at one with the world and the good. “Good is a noun,” he posits. This book is a must-read: it will certainly change not just one’s opinion of riding motorcycles, but one’s general outlook in life.

Anura Leslie Perera is involved in various charitable organizations and leads a network of international entrepreneurs aiming to make the world a better place. He is intent on taking the truths of Buddhist philosophy and delivering them to many communities both locally and internationally. For more on his work, follow this Facebook page.

Disaster relief: Considerations for supporters and volunteers

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Natural calamities have become more destructive in the recent years. A storm surge, earthquake, or flash floods can affect cities and claim thousands of lives. As the world watches, many people want to lend their time and resources to alleviate the loss and suffering and start the rebuilding. Before a person chooses to support or volunteer to help disaster-stricken communities, here are some considerations.

Donating funds is the fastest way to help.

Sending financial support through prominent organizations will help them raise money not just for supplies but also for transport, communication, and other expenses that are also critical in relief efforts. Giving financially is also the fastest way to send help. Donors must choose wisely which organizations to fund.

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Know what to give.

Some organizations will request a certain item from their supporters as some much-needed supplies may be lacking. For example, an organization that focuses on the needs of children may request for diapers, infant formula, and toys. Before rushing to the supermarket to send cans of food, thoughtfully consider what other needs there could be and find a fitting organization that will accept the contribution.

Consider personal situation and skills.

Before hopping on a plane to volunteer, an individual must consider his or her personal needs. In a disaster-stricken area, volunteers must be able to hold their own. Getting sick or not knowing what to do in a foreign place might cause more problems. Volunteers who go abroad to send relief are there not because they want to travel; they are there because they are willing and capable of helping. Most of them are also trained to hold their own while they help rebuild the lives of many in a community.

To fully help those in need, keep these considerations in mind. Meeting the needs of others is a noble desire, but it must be done right.

Anura Leslie Perera sponsors a great number of philanthropic causes, mostly addressing poverty, health, and infrastructural devastation caused by natural calamities. He has lent his support to charitable institutions because he wants to give back to the community that has given him so much. More about Mr. Perera here.