Tao Te Ching Chapter 11

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.

 Jane English & Gia-fu Feng 1989

“I gotta look at things as if they’re just happening, because sometimes what I see is really, really annoying…”                                                       Anon

The axle hole, the empty cup, the empty space are useful.

We use the space in the wheel, the cup, the room. We can fill the emptiness in the wheel and cup and room to our benefit.

The rest of what I initially wrote here has been removed because the following question appeared after I had written much about this chapter:

“What would the open places fill with if I did not fill them with myself? “

3 Responses to Tao Te Ching Chapter 11

  1. Louis W. says:

    Hmmm. Last night I did read what you originally wrote, and I frankly needed some time to process it. It seems that you certainly did have a full plate (or cup). It was quite perceptive of you to step back to see what portion was filled with your friend’s unfortunate situation and what portion was your own emotions.

    Jumping way ahead to Chapter 67, Lao Tzu tells us that he has three treasures, or three things to teach. The first of those is translated by many as compassion or love. That treasure is presaged here, and by the question you pose above. It is through detaching from our own egos that we open the space necessary to actually show compassion to others.

    That same space helps to answer the question posed in Chapter 10 about how we can lead or help others without imposing our will or control.

  2. bobgriffith says:

    “It is through detaching from our own egos that we open the space necessary to actually show compassion to others.” There you go. The simple question I left intact is a distillation of what you see as well. If we are not “there” with our selfish agendas there’s suddenly a lot of room. Then compassion and love come to fill the open places and don’t find the place already fully occupied with a lot of judgments and all other types of egocentric crap. The trick is to consciously catch my ego when it’s filled up the opening spaces with whatever that small, sly, selfish, stubborn space-hog has managed to slip by my conscious mind. I swear sometimes it seems like my ego is an on-board alien that just needs to go back to its own planet, you know? Been getting it out of the way for over thirty years now in favor of making room for love, and still the little bastard thinks he’s got a chance… It is to laugh.

    • Louis W. says:

      One more comment that seems appropriate:

      When this chapter talks about rooms, it refers to the doors and windows rather than the space in the room. Old Lao Tzu recognized that you come and go to and from the emptiness. You don’t stay there all the time. Sometimes it is necessary go out and have a drink with your ego – spend a little time together; perhaps open up some compassion for that “on-board alien.” After all, it was there to protect your personality and even your spirit as you were growing, changing, evolving.

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