Thursday, March 7, 2013

Where the pot's not

Colleen @ Loose Leaf Notes posted a Thursday Thirteen called 13: Outside the Box a couple of weeks ago.  Here's number eleven on her list:
11. We join spokes together in a wheel / But it is the center that makes the wagon move / We shape clay into a pot / But it is the emptiness inside that hold whatever we want / We hammer wood for a house / But it is the inner space that makes it livable / We work with being / But non-being is what we use.  Lao Tzu
I left Colleen this comment:  "My favorite chapter of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu is number eleven, the one you chose to quote.  I'm impressed that you even put it as your number eleven.  When I teach religions of the world, I use all my translations (though I especially like Stephen Mitchell's translation), letting the students read it aloud from each version.  Did you know that Ursula K. Le Guin also translated it?  Here's her version of number eleven, with her comment below it."
The uses of not

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.
"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" (p. 14).


colleen said...

I might have to order her book to get her take on it. I used Lao Tzu in most of my passage meditations. Tzu or Rumi.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Colleen, if you get a copy of Ursula K. Le Guin's translation, let me know what you think. I really like her wording.

Beth said...

This is wonderful stuff, Bonnie. I was introduced to Lao Tzu by my husband, Tom, who's always quoting him. I think Lao Tzu and Jesus would have gotten along very well. :-) Jesus also had a sense of humor.