Bryan Callen and Uncle Lu

班門弄斧/bān mén nòng fǔ: Swing an axe in front of Lu Ban and pretend to be a master.

魯班/Lu Ban is the god of carpenters. Records show that he was born in the Kingdom of Lu in 507 BCE, during the late Zhou: the Spring and Autumn period. It is written that he made a great bird from wood, and was able to fly. He created a great wooden, mechanized robot horse. Legend has it that in his seventieth year, he attained the ability to levitate. His axe was sacred, his saw was holy. Soon after he found the way of all things, a young man of twelve came to him requesting to become his disciple. Lu Ban said, “If you want me to be your master, follow me.” Then he jumped into his wood drying kiln and flew away as an immortal.

Bryan Callen is a silly goose.

Mei Zhihuan, a poet, lived at the height of the Ming Dynasty. The literate people of the Ming held their ancestors, the Tang, as the pinnacle of virtue. Li Bai was a Tang poet, whose reputation and poetry made him a god of language. One day, Mei Zhihuan went to pay tribute at Li Bai’s tomb. He tried to write many poems, and failed. As he wrote, he began to laugh. Then he wrote this:

采石江邊一堆土,李白之名高千古。
來來往往一首詩,魯班門前弄大斧。
cǎi shí jiāng biān yī duī tǔ , lǐ bái zhī míng gāo qiān gǔ 。
lái lái wǎng wǎng yī shǒu shī , lǔ bān mén qián nòng dà fǔ 。
As I toil on Stone River’s banks, Li Bai’s name echoes in the air
My poems come, my poems go, making me a fool in front of God’s door (note: swing an axe in front of Lu Ban’s door)

-Mei Zhihuan, “On Li’s Great White Grave” (interpretation by Isaiah Gooley)

This poem has survived 500 years and three revolutions. And its meaning has found its way into the loins of Bryan Callen.

Bryan is a funny guy. Hell, he’s a master of comedy. But his wushu is lacking. He knows it, and because he’s a silly goose, he continues to play the fool. He’s not stupid, he knows what he’s doing. He also genuinely respects great martial artists and wants to learn from them.

There’s nothing wrong with playing the fool. There’s nothing wrong with trying things you’re not good at. Everyone is a white belt at something. Even Bryan Callen.

Isaiah is a linguist, a student, and a musician. He likes whiskey and showtunes. Check out his music on Soundcloud or Bandcamp. His website is https://greatghouls.com, where he writes personal blogs that aren’t too well thought out.

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