The perfectly imperfect thing

Of all possible virtues, the finest is the perfection of imperfection. The title Rhinoceros Horn Fan refers to a case in the Blue Cliff Record, a famous collection of Zen koans, in which a master and his attendant have a conversation:
One day Yanguan called to his attendant, "Bring me the rhinoceros horn fan."

The attendant said, "The fan is broken."

Yanguan said, "Then bring me the rhinoceros!"

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Beethoven était tellement sourd que, toute sa vie, il a cru qu'il faisait de la peinture

[attributed to François Cavanna]

Beethoven was so deaf that, his whole life, he thought he was a painter.

I really wish someone would explain to me why French people think this is funny. I speak French fairly well, with a good grasp of grammar, excellent phonetics, and am fairly well read. But I know folks who think this is uproariously funny, and it just makes me yawn. Maybe I am just revealing too much reverence for LVB.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I don't get it either. Me and Ludwig, we're probably going deaf for the same reason.

John Tarrant said...

I think it's interesting—a meta joke, taken out to an almost abstract level. But it might just be a throwaway. It's at the edge.

There is koan that this kind of joke reminds me of. I can't find the source. Maybe Yunmen? This might be the same kind of joke.

Do you see that cloud?
Is it hanging there by itself or is it pinned up by a nail?

This is not a throwaway, not as close to the edge.


A said...

I will give this a shot: I think it has to do with the materiality of painting -- it's status as a manual art. He was so deaf that it didn't matter to him that the movement of his fingers was producing sound -- it was simply a manual effort. A virtuosic one, to be sure, but unconnected to sound -- a formal movement of the hands over a surface. Hence, a painter. Maybe a finger painter.

He was so deaf that the translation of what he did into sound couldn't even register.

It's quite brilliant. But then I have a pretty warped sense of humor.