Cutting Up An Ox: The Artistry of Walking
Cook Ting is cutting an ox into pieces as Lord Wen-hui stands looking on. He carries out a virtuoso performance – as rhythmic and flowing as a dance. The lord, filled with awe and admiration, cannot suppress his delight. “Ah, your method is superb!” he says. Cook Ting lays down his knife and replies that, really, there is no method, except that after having carved thousands of oxen, it is the Way that guides him unerringly from his first cut to his last. He elaborates further, and when he has finished, Lord Wen-hui proclaims, “Excellent! I have heard the words of Cook Ting and learned how to care for life!” (Chau Tzu: Basic Writings)
The cook has carved up thousands of oxen. Have many hundreds of onlookers become enlightened? No. An awakening comes only to those who, like Lord Wen-hui, are prepared to receive the cook’s inadvertent lesson.
There are artists of life, artists of Chesed – Life Force Nurturers – artists of education etc. It is not their “method” that is superb, but, rather their Derech – their way. Judaism is a “Path” – it provides a direction, as we walk – Halacha. It encourages us to be Walkers Along The Path – “Mehalchim” (Zachariah 7) To learn from the Artists of Walking – we must, as Lord Wen-hui, be prepared to receive their lessons. The process of learning begins with the student’s desire for awakening.
Only then, will we see beyond the method and notice the path, which will then invite and direct us.
Moshe declared: “We shall travel on the king’s road.” (Numbers 21:22) The path is open and prepared. Are we?
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