Friday, June 12, 2015

Lao Tzu: "The uses of not" (Book One, Chapter 11)

Thirty spokes
meet in the hub.
Where the wheel isn't
is where it's useful.

Hollowed out,
clay makes a pot.
Where the pot's not
is where it's useful.

Cut doors and windows
to make a room.
Where the room isn't,
there's room for you.

So the profit in what is
is in the use of what isn't.

"The uses of not" (Book One, Chapter 11) by Lao Tzu, from Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way, translated from the original Chinese by Ursula K. Le Guin (Shambhala Publications, 1998 edition). Visit this link for the Chinese and a wide variety of English translations.

Translator's note: "One of the things I love about Lao Tzu is he is so funny. He's explaining a profound and difficult truth here, one of those counter-intuitive truths that, when the mind can accept them, suddenly double the size of the universe. He goes about it with this deadpan simplicity, talking about pots." 

Art credit: "Empty vessel," photograph taken on July 24, 2011, in Hyderabad, Telengana, India, by swarat_ghosh.


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