The Importance of being Useless, Chuang Tzu


Chuang Tzu had a student who asked him how one should comport oneself in life as a Taoist.  Chuang said, “Do you see this tree?  It is useless so it will live it’s full life, no carpenter will cut it down.  It’s limbs are too Gnarly, so one couldn’t get a straight plank out of it.  If one tried to make a boat out of it, the knots would leak water.  If somebody tried to make a casket out of it, the bugs would get in.  It is so full of sap that it would take forever to dry out and when it did it would be covered in resin.  The would is so hard it would damage the axe and the saw used to cut it and tire the limbs of the woodcutter.  If it was burnt for firewood it would stink and the sap would explode, it wouldn’t smell good like cherry or apple.  If the rest of the forest burned it would still survive because it is thick and full of water. It is perfect in it’s uselessness, so it shall live a long and happy life.  Nobody can use it.  This is one aspect of the Tao.”

Chuang Tzu, Joxua Luxor Translation.



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