Would you fix your own bike?

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Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

For my first technology post, I have decided to write about a book about philosophy. Hang in there with me. I am reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by the great Robert M. Pirsig.

Considered a self-discovery classic, at par with Kerouac’s On the road or Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, the book tells the story of a motorcycle trip across North America by a father with his 11-year-old and another couple.

Beyond the story about the road trip (which I already like) what hit a chord deep inside of me are the reflections that the writer shares about the different approaches that people have towards technology, all this seen through the lenses of motorcycle maintenance, of course 😀

What is your stance towards technology?

On the one hand, we have Robert, who performs his own maintenance. He gets his hands dirty and takes the time to understand his motorbike. He kind of represents the systematic thinking that an engineer or mechanic goes through with logic to identify issues on his motorbike 👀.

The couple, on the other hand, sees the mechanical side of their machine as an alien entity that they rather have professionals do. They value aesthetics over practical applications and see life as creative, unpredictable and chaotic. Ironically, as the trip unfolds, they can’t help but find themselves entangled with issues from the motorbike that they travel on 😳

Aim for the middle ground 😀

As a Triumph motorcycle owner (I rode from London to Zahara de los Atunes to attend my own wedding) and a technologist (I design and build websites and mobile apps for a living), I can see where Robert is coming from.

Taking the time to understand the inner workings of the most critical (or annoying) objects, systems, processes that we interact with on a day-to-day basis pays dividends in the long run.

Thankfully, the two mindsets described by the book are merely extremes from a spectrum that can actually be reconciled! For instance, I didn’t grow up with an interest in technology or mechanics even though I could now probably dismantle my entire bike.

Once we leave any preconceived images of ourselves behind, we can blend curiosity creativity and intuition with reason and science as sources of wisdom to increase our quality of life.

Thanks for reading,

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