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09 February 2022

John Cage's Joke

This is not what you think. Rather, it's literally John Cage's joke, only one of the two he ever told me. It arose spontaneously from my memory in an email exchange today with Alex Ross, who, in case you missed it, has just published a beautiful essay on John Cage in the Oct. 4 issue of The New Yorker.
The joke goes like this:
A congregation of the great religious leaders of the world convened in Boston for an annual conference on the subject of world peace. As the opening reception drew to a close, each of the men moved to take his assigned seat at the long wooden table that had been set up for the occasion. The esteemed Rabbi, chosen to serve as conference leader, began to sit, but then abruptly rose and looked worriedly around the room.
"Is there a Christian Scientist in the house?" he asked hoarsely, noisily clearing his phlegmy throat.
The Christian Scientist rose quickly from his seat at the opposite end of the table, his chest swelling with pride. "I am a Christian Scientist," he solemnly declared.
"Oh, thank goodness!" the Rabbi said, visibly relieved, gathering up his things. "Can we change seats? There seems to be a draft here."
Laura Kuhn