Robert Pirsig Explains Vacation Zen

Some 34 years after it was published and 20 years after my last (fifth) reading, Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance remains the book that has has the biggest influence on my life. I took my old copy with me on our family vacation to Montana because we would be travelling part of the route Pirsig travels by motorcycle in the book.

On our drive back last week this inspired me to read my wife and sons one of my favorite passages from the book that happens to include a perfect summary of why vacations are so good for the soul (and for your work/health/life):

The gumption-filling process occurs when one is quiet long enough to see and hear and feel the real universe, not just one’s own stale opinions about it. But it’s nothing exotic. That’s why I like the word.
You see it often in people who return from long, quiet fishing trips. Often they’re a little defensive about having put so much time to “no account” because there’s no intellectual justification for what they’ve been doing. But the returned fisherman usually has a peculiar abundance of gumption, usually for the very same things he was sick to death of a few weeks before. He hasn’t been wasting time. It’s only our limited cultural viewpoint that makes it seem so.

This “vacation mind” is so valuable to sustained creative work (and building digital identity systems is nothing if not creative) that I’ll do everything I can to sustain it throughout the rest of the year. So if you see me looking like I’ve “gone fishing”…that’s exactly right.


About Drummond Reed

Internet entrepreneur in identity, personal data, and governance frameworks
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