Utility of Uselessness

9 Jan

A TREE story from Chuang Tzu

A certain carpenter was traveling with his helper. They came to a town where a giant oak tree filled the square. It was huge, with many limbs spreading out; large enough to shade a hundred oxen and its shade covered the entire square. The helper was amazed at the potential lumber contained in this one tree but the carpenter passed it by with a mere glance. When his helper asked him why he had passed up such a magnificent specimen the carpenter replied that he could see at once that the great oak’s branches were useless to him.

“They are so hard,” he said, “that were I to take my ax to them it would split. The wood is so heavy that a boat made of it would sink. The branches themselves are so gnarled and twisted they cannot be made into plants. If I tried to fashion house beams with it they would collapse. If I made a coffin from it you would not be able to fit someone inside.
Altogether it is a completely useless tree.
And that is the secret of its long life.”

Chuang Tzu

You may be wondering how uselessness could possibly be of any benefit to you.  Well, think of it this way, do you remember your Grandmother ever saying to you, “Its not what you’re called its what you answer to?”  The two parables are one in the same.  Of course the tree is not really useless, it still provides shade, oxygen, beauty to all of those who come across it, however its willingness to be thought of as useless have allowed for its continued survival.  For us as women, we are often thought of as useless.  Doubly so for Black women.  Far too often we have grown bitter, aggressive, abrasive, and harsh in attempting to assert our utility or defend our place.  Why?

What is the use in being useful? If the tree had been useful it would have long since been chopped down and used as lumber.  In the same way, those people others deem as useful are publicly appraised and “chopped down” not allowed to reach their full potential as they have been hacked into pieces.  If someone thinks that you are useless, what is the point in expending energy to prove them otherwise?  Their perception of you is a reflection of them.  You are what you are, nothing more nothing less.  Continue to focus on yourself, your goals, your aspirations, and your utility.

Other people may label you many things in your lifetime, some of them will be true and others will be untrue.  None of them will matter if you do not ingest it as your own truth.  Perhaps there is a reason the ignorant are so full of bliss.


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