September 24th, 2009

Chapter eleven: 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 of what is
is in the use of what isn't.

Ursula Le Guin, 1998.
  • trevoke


Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore benefit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.
A wheel has spokes,
but it rotates around a hollow center.

A pot is made out of clay or glass,
but you keep things in the space inside.

A house is made of wood or brick,
but you live between the walls.

We work with something,
but we use nothing.

The first version is from the Fortune files. The second version is the Beatrice Tao.