I truly, deeply believe that every single person born on this planet has a place where they belong – it is just a matter of finding it. I have come to realize this through meeting many different kinds of people, abilities, gifts, and various challenges. Every single person has a right to belong somewhere, where they are accepted as they are and can contribute meaningfully to our global society.
Interestingly, this is a component of Taoism. I have read a bit of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu and have been drawn to the philosophy and spirituality of the text. [See previous post about my spiritual background here, and here.] I have also been reading the book, “The Tao of Pooh,” by Benjamin Hoff.
Hoff uses stories of Winnie-the-Pooh to explain the many facets of the Tao, and quotes a selection from the Chinese philosopher Chuang-Tse:
Hui-tse said to Chuang-tse, “I have a large tree which no carpenter can cut into lumber. Its branches and trunk are crooked and tough, covered with bumps and depressions. No builder would turn his head to look at it. Your teachings are the same–useless, without value. Therefore no one pays attention to them.”
“As you know,” Chuang-tse replied, “a cat is very skilled at capturing its prey. Crouching low, it can leap in any direction, pursuing whatever it is after. But when its attention is focused on such things, it can be easily caught with a net. On the other hand, a huge yak is not easily caught or overcome. It stands like a stone, or a cloud in the sky. But for all its strength, it cannot catch a mouse.”
“You can complain that your tree is not valuable as lumber. But you could make use of the shad it provides, rest under its sheltering branches, and stroll beneath it, admiring its character and appearance. Since it would not be endangered by an axe, what could threaten its existence? It is useless to you only because you want to make it into something else and do not use it in its proper way.”
The Hoff continues to explain how this is applicable to people; we need to recognize “What’s There” – as in what our own abilities, gifts and challenges are. He explains in his own words how sometimes people try do be things they are not. We need to embrace who we are and what abilities we have. Basically, learn to recognize our gifts and limitations and use them to the best of our ability.
“…That doesn’t mean that we need to stop changing and improving. It just means that we need to recognize What’s There. If you face the fact that you have weak muscles, say, then you can do the right things and eventually become strong. But if you ignore What’s There and try to lift someone’s car out of a ditch, what sort of condition will you be in after a while? And even if you have more muscle than anyone else alive, you still can’t push over a freight train. The wise know their limitations; the foolish do not.”
(The whole thing is really worth a read!)
In conclusion, I think if we all practice more empathy and compassion, and really strive to see the value that every single living person on this planet has to offer, we will feel a lot better about ourselves, and each other. This will make the world a better place. So I challenge you – even the person that is most annoying and seemingly out of place – what of value do they bring to the world? How do they fit into the puzzle?
- Here is a PDF copy of the entire “The Tao of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoff
- Here are two blog posts I did that incorporates readings from the Tao Te Ching:
– “Meditation on the New Sun,” from 12/22/12
– “Universal Material and Spiritual Substance,” from 12/26/12
- This is the translation of Lao Tsu’s Tao Te Ching that I like to use, by Ralph Alan Dale- it is very readable, and from seems the most true to the original meaning for me, and has commentary on each verse in the back. It is also a gorgeous book visually. If there is different one you like, please share!