Dregs And Sediments

August 8, 2013 at 8:54 am Leave a comment

I’m preparing my book, The Spiritual Teachings Of The Tao (long out of print) as an e-book, and came across this story from Chuang Tzu that I have always loved. I’d like to share it with you. I title it Dregs:

The world thinks the most valuable exhibition of Tao is found in its classic books. But books are only a collection of words. Words are valuable: what is valuable in them is the ideas they convey. But those ideas are a sequence of something else, and that something else can’t be conveyed by words.

When the world, because of the high value it attaches to words, commits those words to books, the thing it so values them for may not deserve to be valued. Because what the world values isn’t really what’s valuable.

That’s why what we look at and see is only the outward form and colour, and what we listen to and hear are only names and sounds. How sad that people should think that form and colour, name and sound, are enough to give them the real nature of Tao.

Form and colour, name and sound, are certainly not sufficient to convey its real nature, and that’s why ”the wise do not speak and those who speak are not wise.” How can the world know the real nature of Tao?

Duke Huan, seated high up in his hall, was reading out loud, and the wheelwright Pien was making a wheel in the courtyard below. Laying aside his hammer and chisel, Pien walked up the stairs, and interrupted him,

“May I ask your Grace what words you are reading?”

The Duke said, “The words of the sages.”

“Are those sages alive?”, Pien asked.

“No, they’re dead,” was the reply.

“Then”, said the wheelwright, “what you, my ruler, are reading are only the dregs and sediments of dead men.”

The Duke, a lover of wisdom, became upset at this and said, “How can you, a wheelwright, have anything to say about my book? If you can explain yourself, well and good. If you can’t, you shall die!”

The wheelwright said, “Your servant will look at the subject from the point of view of his own craft. In making a wheel, if I go at it gently, it’s certainly pleasant enough, but the workmanship isn’t very strong. If I have to push forcefully, that’s an effort and the joints won’t fit well. Neither too gentle nor too forceful: my hand knows how to do it in harmony with my heart, and a fine wheel is produced. But I can’t tell you how to do it in words – there’s a certain knack to it. I can’t even teach this knack to my son, nor can my son learn it from me. That’s why I’m seventy years old and am still making wheels.

Now these ancient sages of yours must have been just like me – they also had a certain knack that it wasn’t possible for them to convey in words. If you’d been able to sit and learn from them, then perhaps you could’ve picked up that knack. But now they’re dead and gone, and all you’re reading is their dregs and sediments!”

Like the wheelwright, I am nearly 70 years old and am still at the coalface.

Advertisements

Entry filed under: Ancient wisdom. Tags: , , .

What’s Cookin’? or Instant Filmmaking Airbrushed Out Of History

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


The Blog That Fell From The Sky

Reflections on an age of anxiety.

Categories


%d bloggers like this: