January 23, 2011
On the Virtues of Uselessness
Almost the whole forest had been cut, but one tree was standing there, a big tree with thousands of branches–SO BIG, THAT TEN THOUHSANDS PERSONS COULD SIT UNDER ITS SHADE.
Lao Tzu asked his disciples to go and inquire WHY THIS TREE HAD NOT BEEN CUT yet, when the whole forest had been cut and was deserted.
The disciples went and they asked the carpenters, “Why have you not cut this tree?”
The carpenters said, “This tree is absolutely useless. You cannot make anything out of it because every branch has so many knots in it. Nothing is straight. You cannot make pillars out of it, you cannot make furniture out of it. You cannot use it as fuel because the smoke is so dangerous to the eyes–you almost go blind. This tree is absolutely useless. That’s why.”
They came back. Lao Tzu laughed and he said, “BE LIKE THIS TREE.
If you want to survive in this world be like this tree–absolutely useless. Then nobody will harm you. If you are straight you will be cut, you will become furniture in somebody’s house. If you are beautiful you will be sold in the market, you will become a commodity. Be like this tree, absolutely useless. Then nobody can harm you. AND YOU WILL GROW BIG AND VAST, AND THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE CAN FIND SHADE UNDER YOU.”
Lao Tzu has a logic altogether different from your mind. He says: BE THE LAST. Move in the world AS IF YOU ARE NOT. Remain unknown. Don’t try to be the first, don’t be competitive, don’t try to prove your worth. There is no need. Remain useless and enjoy.
Of course he is impractical. But if you understand him you will find that he is the most practical on a deeper layer, in the depth–because life is to enjoy and celebrate, life is not to become a utility. LIFE IS MORE LIKE POETRY than like a commodity in the market; it should be like poetry, a song, a dance.
Lao Tzu says: If you try to be very clever, if you try to be very useful, you will be used. If you try to be very practical, somewhere or other you will be harnessed, because the world cannot leave the practical man alone. Lao Tzu says: Drop all these ideas. If you want to be a poem, an ecstasy, then FORGET ABOUT UTILITY. REMAIN TRUE TO YOURSELF.