Confucius, the Buddha, Aristotle, and Mr. T Order Their Dinner at Chili’s
by David Kennedy Bird
Abstract: In which four of the world’s greatest philosophers discuss the nature of pleasure and pain, over a meal at Chili’s restaurant. (Er, just to give you a bit of advance notice, one of those philosophers is Mr. T. We’re sorry. It just worked out that way.)
Waiter: Good evening! My name is Miles, and i’ll be your server today.
Mr. T: You wanna know my name? Huh? Do ya? First name: Mister. Middle name: period. Last name: T.
Waiter: Um–excellent! [hesitates long enough to absorb this edifying information]
So, can i bring you fellows something to drink?
Mr. T: Maybe you can shut your mouth. Maybe you can do that?
Waiter: I… uh… [trembling]… beg your pardon?
Aristotle: [sighs so very deeply]
Confucius: How about four waters, please. And thank you for your patience.
[Waiter scuttles off, already apprehensive about the evening’s shift]
Mr. T: I pity the fool.
Aristotle: I can’t help noticing that you say that in places where it makes absolutely no sense.
Mr. T: Yeah, well here’s what i have to say to you: pain.
The Buddha: Pain is gateway to vision, even as gate is gateway to place on other side of gate.
Aristotle: Uh: right. Ahem. Okay. So here’s an interesting question. What role do pleasure and pain play in the development of a healthy human person? Can a human truly grow, without experiencing the opposing forces which are not of his choosing?
Mr. T: My prediction: Pain.
The Buddha: Bird in tree sing beautifully. Bird standing on rock also sing beautifully.
Confucius: Thank you, Sid. Good stuff. So here’s how i would approach that question. It is through standing against the wind that the strong man prevails. The weak man has spent his days sheltered under a bush; he has not allowed the forces of nature to train him. Opposition is our course of training.
Mr. T: I’ll show you a course of training.
Aristotle: Someone remind me, how did this ‘T’ person end up at our table?
Confucius: [sighs] It’s a long story.
Mr. T: I pity the fool.
Confucius: Thank you, Mr. T. Keep it coming.
The Buddha: Pain is the path that we take, which leads us to the other path.
The Buddha: You know, the other path. That other one. The one that isn’t the first one.
Confucius: Let’s just move on.
Aristotle: Okay. Um? I think that you and i were agreeing that pain is an important component in the process of maturing.
Confucius: Right. Furthermore, if we lean into the unfortunate circumstances that beset us, rather than trying to avoid or deny them, then we gain tenfold the wisdom and maturity that we would have gained, had we successfully evaded them.
Mr. T: Pain. It’s what’s for dinner.
Aristotle: Look, that did not EVEN.
Confucius: [sigh] Let it go. Anyway, strength is gained through having to confront pain when it comes to us. The weak man, you will find, has led an easy life.
Aristotle: That makes sense. I like it.
[Miles the waiter returns with four waters]
Waiter: So, have you fellas made up your minds yet?
Mr. T: I don’t believe in magic; but i have been known to make guys disappear.
Mr. T: You heard me. Get along now.
The Buddha: Pain. Heh heh heh.
Aristotle: [groans] Could we have another minute, please?
Waiter: You bet. [makes a quick getaway before Mr. T is able to comment]
Confucius: Perhaps we can all take a moment to look at our menus.
Aristotle: What is this ‘Southwestern Eggroll’…? Isn’t that sort of a contradiction in terms? I thought eggrolls were from [and here he bows slightly to Confucius] the Orient.
Confucius: I believe these Southwestern Eggrolls may be from the Southwestern part of China. You know, a regional cuisine.
Aristotle: [somewhat doubtful] Ah. Of course. Well, i guess i’ll try a batch of ’em.
Mr. T: I remember one time i tried to pity this fool. It didn’t work out.
Confucius: Pity the waiter, T, and make your selection from the menu.
Mr. T: Where’s the bear? I wanna order the bear.
Aristotle: [disintegrating visibly] The…bear?
Mr. T: Yeah, some days you eat the bear, and some days the bear eats you.
The Buddha: I, too, wish to eat bear. It is the bear that brings us to the edge of what we are not, so that we may perhaps then discover what we are.
Aristotle: [sweating, wilting] That… i mean, it didn’t… what are we even… i need a drink.
Confucius: Let’s make that two drinks.
Epilogue: We’re sorry. There was really no predicting that this would be the result… oh dear. We’re just sorry, that’s all. -The Editors