empty cup theory


when i was young and was eating breathing and sleeping japanese, johnny and i separately came across the same story, most likely apocryphal, of a white man coming to japan when they first began interacting with foreigners. the man did everything he could to learn about the country, its culture, its language before he got there. he wanted to have as much background as possible to orient himself and begin taking in the japanese. when he got there he got an audience with a well respected monk. the monk asked him to tea. instead of taking in the ceremony of serving tea, the young man unleashed a barrage of questions. not waiting for the answer to one before asking the next. the monk did not answer as he finished the preparation and poured the man his tea. and the questions still did not stop. and the monk kept pouring the man his tea. and it overflowed the cup. finally the young man noticed and told the monk to stop, his cup was full. the monk simply answered “how can i fill your cup if you do not empty it?”


2 Responses to “empty cup theory”

  1. 1 flyover

    Socrate in greece, 1 thousand years before japan opened the doors to the world, talked about “maieutican” [ora something like that in english :P] the art of extract the truth from everybody. The first step of that retoric process was “i know that i don’t know”, in other words “my cup is empty”.

    Around XVI century, in italy, the philosofer Cusano spoke about “wel read ignorance”.

    It’s the first step ever to know anything.


  2. 2 Johnny

    The Nipponese who encountered Westerners who wanted to open Nippon to Western trade in the 19th century sdescribed the Westerners as “huge and pink and reeking of butter.” Yeah!

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