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  • Rick Repetti

Philosophical Humor: Nasruddin's Pot

Laughter is medicine for the soul, on the one hand, by exposing the inherent humor, absurdity, or irony of existence, and thereby offering a moment of hearty freedom from the gravity of our existential predicament, so to speak. Philosophical jokes span the spectrum of humor: they may be as silly as anything else worth a laugh, on one end, they may rest upon deadpan twists on logical fallacies, more toward the center of the spectrum, and they may even rise to the level of ironic wisdom, on the other end of the spectrum. Some of them are presented in stages, as each stage may function as a joke in itself. Maybe only philosophers will “get” some of these, but they’re all worth a try. There aren’t many philosophical jokes, so this is an ongoing collection, and if you have a philosophical joke, send it on, and if it passes my “publicly appropriate” filter, I’ll publish it here. Here's the first installment.

Baby Pot

Stage 1. The crazy-wisdom mystic Sufi master, Nasruddin, once knocked on his neighbor’s door asking to borrow a big pot for a big party he was to host at his home. The neighbor initially refused, citing Nasruddin’s history of forgetting to return borrowed items, of his having to hound Nasruddin for months to retrieve a borrowed item, and so on. Nasruddin implored him, a gave his word, promising to return it by the end of the same day as the party, and the man caved in. That weekend, Nasruddin hosted the party, and afterwards he knocked on the neighbor’s door with the big pot in his hands. The neighbor was delighted, and thanked him profusely. Nasruddin said, “wait, there’s more: open it!” Upon opening it, the neighbor saw that there was a smaller pot inside, and then asked “what’s this?” Nasruddin replied, “the big pot had a baby pot!” The neighbor smiled, saying “aww, you shouldn’t have!”

Stage 2. Months later, Nasruddin asked again to borrow the big pot, and the neighbor, unhesitant this time, happily gave it to him. A day went by, and the neighbor thought to himself, “last time he returned it the same day, but this time he didn’t say when he needed it until…”, so he decided to be patient, trusting that Nasruddin had already established his new-found reliability. Days turned to weeks, straining the neighbor’s patience, but after a month, the neighbor approached Nasruddin, asking “what happened to my pot?”, to which Nasruddin replied, “So sorry: it died!”

Moral: As the Buddha observed, everything subject to birth is subject to death. If a pot can give birth, it can die. If you accept that sort of narrative or reasoning (pots can engage in reproductive and other biological phenomena, however metaphorically) when it benefits you, then, to be consistent, you must accept that same sort of narrative or reasoning when it disbenefits you.

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