The Useless Tree
Lao Tzu asked his disciples to go and inquire why this tree had not been cut. They went and asked the woodcutter and they 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.
The disciples came back and told Lao Tzu. He laughed said, “Be like this tree. If you are useful you will be cut and 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, and then you will grow big and vast and thousands of people will find shade under you.”
In Thomas Merton’s interpretation of Chuang Tzu’s parable of “The Useless Tree,” the Taoist is in dialog with a noted logician, friend and intellectual rival, Hui Tzu.