Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Chicken Joke

This joke involves a man, a therapist and a chicken each of whom has a body which shows aspects of themselves and the world to each other.


Susie said...

what? no bonus post with the actual joke?

chuck said...

Let's see.

The chicken "makes no bones" of showing "everything".

The man is an enigma to himself--and perhaps to others--selectively revelatory.

The therapist--in addition to being a "person of discernment"--reveals a taste for sartorial sophistication.

Trevor said...

Thanks for your comments Susie and Chuck, I might make use of 'The chicken "makes no bones" of showing "everything".'

A man believes he is a grain of seed. Through a thoroughgoing process of therapy the man is cured of his delusion. He lives for several months without incident until one day, hearing a rustle at his door, he opens it to find a chicken waiting for him. He shuts the door in a panic and rushes back to his therapist. Gently, but firmly, the therapist asks the man if he believes that he is a man or a grain of sand. The man shyly, but urgently, responds, "I believe I am a man ... but does the chicken believe it?" In Philadelphia this fall, Slavoj Žižek ended this joke about chickens and the nature of belief by saying, "Everyone has a chicken that believes for them."*1*
This joke signals the longstanding and unhappy relationship of seperation between our thinking processes and the natural world. The joke is funny because of the seeming ridiculousness of believing chickens. We laugh at it because of the tentative nature of our own commitments. In this chapter I want to further examine our assumed pecking order of belief, but instead of focusing on the nature of that belief in regards to fundamentalism and the liberal academy as Žižek did, I want to focus on the relationships between the bodies involved in this joke.
This joke involves a man, a therapist and a chicken each of whom has a body which shows aspects of themselves and the world to each other. When we set aside the question of the possibility of poultry ethics, this is a joke that taken at face value raises questions of both ethics and interpretation. There is a threat of violence in the man's possible demise and therefore a Levinasian ethical demand is thrust upon the chicken. Whether acknowledged as such or not, the chicken sees in the man's face the demand, "do not kill me." Whether appropriate or not the man sees a threat from the chicken. Questions of interpretation loom large. Significantly, questions of belief are also at stake. Good interpretation in this joke depends on good belief. Both the man and the chicken are unable to escape what they show each other; even the therapists best intentions cannot override the significance of the chicken's body for the man.

1 I heard this joke as part of Žižek's presentation to the American Academy of Religion in 2005.

Susie said...

thank you!