“The Usefulness of the Useless”

Happy Monday everyone. Here at Transition Monday we are feeling grateful we still have time to create more time for needed transitions off our reliance on fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal) for just about everything we need to survive. If, as expected, we had a disruption in global supply chains, it would be really tough for most societies. For those of you who are not feeling you can “do” anything “useful,” at the moment, don’t panic, here is a thought from ancient Chinese texts, the Tao Te Ching:

Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub. It is the center hole that makes it useful.

So, often, not doing anything, or maybe just a little, holding the space so others can be supported to act, is the most useful thing in the world that can be done right now. And for any of you who feel you don’t have the necessary skills and abilities, here is a parable with some thoughts on this from its companion text, the Chuang Tsu:

Nan Po Tsu Chi was wandering in the Shang Hills when he caught sight of a huge, extraordinary tree. A thousand four-horse chariots could have rested in its shade. Tsu Chi said, “What kind of tree is this? It must be very special wood.” He looked up and saw that the smaller branches were gnarled and twisted, and could not be used for beams or rafters. He looked down and saw that the great trunk was curved and knotted, and could not be used for coffins. When he tasted a leaf, it burned his mouth …. Tsu chi said, “Indeed, this tree is good for nothing. No wonder it grew so big. That is how it is! Holy men treasure this worthlessness.”

This parable could be seen as a call to allow ourselves to become more fully ourselves – both to ourselves and to others – and recognise how, like the tree, what can seem at first sight to be useless, can, on consideration, become  its very opposite, hugely useful, precisely because it can’t be used for practical everyday purposes.

Transition Monday can be a good time to help each other recognise and appreciate the gifts we all have to contribute to our transition to a liveable world that all would like to live in.

Something to think about: What is your gift? What are the gifts of family and friends? Leaders? Are they gifts which are recognized as useful? What are the gifts which you might have previously considered useless, but now consider useful? Send us your thoughts. Join the conversation.

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