Science can be taught, but art has to be imbibed

Science can be taught, but art has to be imbibed

I have read that there was an emperor in China fifteen hundred years ago, who was very fond of meat – so much so that he would have a cow or bull slaughtered right before his eyes. The same butcher slaughtered cattle in front of him regularly every morning for fifteen years.

One day the emperor asked, ”I haven’t seen you sharpening your axe once in fifteen years. Doesn’t its edge become blunt?” The butcher replied, ”No, Your Majesty, it doesn’t. The edge becomes blunt only when the butcher is not an expert, if he does not know where to strike. The butcher must know where there are bones and joints, and then the axe can cut the animal in two with one blow. This art of cutting is passed on from one generation to the next. So not only does the edge not become blunt, it becomes sharper daily, with every fresh stroke.”

The emperor asked the butcher to teach him the art. The butcher replied, ”It would be very difficult to. I have not learnt this art but imbibed it from watching my father since my early childhood. It wasn’t taught to me, I absorbed the art through watching my father every day. Sometimes I would fetch the axe for him, and sometimes I would stack up the limbs of the animals. That was how I learnt the art. If you are ready to do the same – standing beside me, sometimes handing over the axe to me and then putting it back, sometimes simply sitting and watching – then perhaps you will learn the art. But I cannot teach it to you.”

Science can be taught, but art has to be imbibed.



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