The Perfect Game

The Perfect Game

Feb 21, 2011, 8:12 PM |

I am not on top of my game, therefore I have no game.

Instead I humbly present you this retelling of a philosophical masterpiece by the wise and ludicrous Chuang Tsu...


The Butcher

Ting the cook was cutting meat free from the bones of an ox.  His hands danced and his shoulders rolled with the step of his foot and the bending of his knee.  With a shush and a hush, the blade sang following his lead, never missing a note.  Ting and his knife moved as one, dancing to a hidden tune.

The governor had been walking by and stopped to marvel at this display of skill, "What a joy to behold!  It is amazing to see such a simple craft elevated to such heights!"

Ting laid aside his knife. "All I care about is the Way.  I have found it in my craft, that is all.  When I first butchered an ox, I saw nothing but ox meat.  It took me three years to see the entire ox.  Now I am able to go engage the task with my entire spirit.  I no longer think about only what the eye sees.  I trust my instincts and they know what to do.  The spirit goes where it will, following the natural contours, revealing cavities and leading the blade through openings, moving ever onward according to actual form, avoiding central arteries, tendons or ligaments, and never touching the bone."

Ting picked up his knife, first balancing it across the flat of his hand, then he began demonstrating technique. "A good cook needs sharpen his blade but once a year.  He cuts cleanly.  An average cook sharpens his knife every month.  He chops.  I've used this knife for nineteen years, carving thousands of oxen."  Ting began working on his task again, sliding the knife through the ox with joyous ease. "Still my blade is as sharp as the first time it was lifted from the wetstone."

"How is that possible?" the governor asked wonderingly.

"At the joints there are spaces and the blade has no thickness.  Entering with no thickness where there is space, the blade may move where it will, there is plenty of room to move.  Thus after nineteen years my blade is as sharp as the first day." Ting's progress slowed as he approached a large knot of flesh. "Even so there are difficult places and when I see rough going ahead, my heart offers proper respect as I pause to look deeply into it.  Then I work slowly, moving my blade with increasing subtlety until...", Kerplop, the meat fell apart like a crumbling clod of earth.  Ting then stood back to assess his work, after a moment he nodded and began cleaning his knife.

The governor said, "Thank you, Ting!  I never imagined that the cook would teach me how to find the way."