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The Usefulness of the Useless
April 22, 2009
1:55 am
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Hi All

Just thought I would throw this one in.

Cheers

Malai5

THE USEFULNESS OF THE USELESS

A parable by Chuang Tzu

Shih the carpenter was on his way to the state of Chi. When he got to Chu Yuan, he saw an oak tree by the village shrine. The tree was large enough to shade several thousand oxen and was a hundred spans around. It towered above the hilltops with it’s lowest branches eighty feet above the ground. More than ten of it’s branches were big enough to make into boats. There were crowds of people as in a marketplace. The master carpenter did not turn his head but walked on without stopping.

His apprentice took a long look, then ran after Shih the carpenter and said, “Since I took up my axe and followed you, master, I have never seen timber as beautiful as this. But you do not even bother to look at it and walk on without stopping. Why is this?”

Shih the carpenter replied, “Stop, say no more! That tree is useless. A boat made from it would sink, a coffin would soon rot, a tool would split, a door would ooze sap and a beam would have termites. It is worthless timber and is of no use. This is why it has reached such a ripe old age.”

After Shih the carpenter had returned home, the sacred oak appeared to him in a dream, saying, “What are you comparing me with? Are you comparing me with useful trees? There are cherry, apple, pear, orange, citron, pomelo and other fruit trees. As soon as their fruit is ripe, the trees are stripped and abused, Their large branches are split and the smaller ones torn off. Their life is bitter because of their usefulness. That is why they do not live out their natural lives, but are cut off in their prime. They attract the attentions of the common world. This is so for all things. As for me, I have been trying for a long time to be useless. I was almost destroyed several times. Finally, I am useless and this is very useful to me. If I had been useful, could I have ever grown so large?

Besides, you and I are both things. How could one thing judge another thing? What does a dying and worthless man like you, know about a worthless tree?” Shih the carpenter awoke and tried to understand his dream.

His apprentice said, “If it had so great a desire to be useless, why does it serve as a shrine?”

Shih the carpenter said, “Hush, stop talking! It is just pretending to be one, so that it will not be hurt by those who do not know it is useless.
If it had not become a sacred tree, it would probably have been cut down.
It protects itself in a different way from ordinary thins.
We will miss the point if we judge it in the ordinary way.”

April 22, 2009
7:06 am
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Nesaie
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Hey, I remember you from when I first signed up here (well the old site). 😀 Welcome back!

You were always kind to me. 😀

Oh...and I LOVE these kind of stories. I've been thinking about revisiting these stories again. Thanks for starting this thread.

Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen... - Zbigniew Brezhinsky

April 22, 2009
7:10 am
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Nesaie
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Oh...and I don't remember this particular story.

Thanks again. 😀

Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen... - Zbigniew Brezhinsky

April 22, 2009
9:29 am
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Yep, I remember you too.
There is something very profound about these "stories" that makes one re-assess the perceptions one has about life.

Cheers

Malai5

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