Sunday, April 17, 2005

A Grain of Seed

I just returned from the latest the series of Jack Caputo's conferences on religion and postmodernism (though this is the first one at his new institutional home in Syracuse), this one entitled "Saint Paul Among the Philosophers." The speakers included Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek, Richard Kearney, Daniel Boyarin, Paula Fredriksen, Dale Martin, and E. P. Sanders. I'll pass along some commentary on the event later, but at this point I only have time to relate a quick joke told by the irrepressible and inimitable Žižek (imagine a twitching, wildly gesticulating narrator with a Slovenian accent):
A man believes he is a grain of seed [ed. note: I think the translation was a bit distorted here, but one gets the general idea], and so he seeks psychoanalysis for his condition. After weeks of working through his paranoia in the psychiatric ward of a hospital, he finally comes to recognize that he is in fact a man rather than a grain of seed. So he decides to leave the hospital now that he is properly adjusted to his true human condition, but upon leaving he sees a chicken and is so terrified that he immediately runs back into the hospital. When the doctors inquire into the nature of his terror, he explains that he saw a chicken and was afraid. Mystified, the doctors confirm that he now understands that he is a man and not a grain of seed. Yes, he replies, he understands that, but the question is, does the chicken know that?


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