Thursday, November 27, 2014

On the definition of usefulness, from a master

It is interesting how much value we put on being useful in a visible sense. As a teacher, often I see how home-makers feel a terrible sense of aloneness that comes from them feeling useless. They try to shut it down by becoming suffocatingly obsessive about their family, overeating, falling sick, becoming irreversible  hypochondriacs.   I believe this is a collective guilt of our society, that we make certain sets of people feel like that -- the elderly, the pensioners, women if they choose not be glamorous, children who do not 'shine" in class, or successful people, artists who are not young, glamorous women/men who have aged.   In this category also, we can see how some spiritual gurus are more "useful" and dynamic than others. In this great extroversion of the mind (now when you decide to be visibly `useful' to a large clutch of people, then you become dependent on them for approval) we are sucked in, and forget the fundamental values of life. We will cheat, manipulate, extort,exploit to get to be noticed as useful (which soon becomes a power trip). We will cheat, manipulate, exploit as long as we are not found out. It is very weird, this human pattern. If we could, we will rewrite history (because, we want to be visible even after our death, as useful to humanity) to pretend we did not do any of those things. It is peculiar how simply biological this need is.

Here, to get this subtle idea through, of choosing to be useful in the right way. A Tao, example. Obviously:)
Chuang-Tzu  was fishing in the Pu River, when two messengers from the king of Chu approached him. "Our king would like to invite you to serve in the affairs of the state."

Chuang-Tzu held on to his rod and did not look around.
"I have heard." he said, "that the state of Chu has a sacred turtle, that has been dead for three thousand years. The kind has it wrapped in cloth, placed in an ornate box, and keeps it in his ancestral temple.
"Now let me ask you about his turtle. Would it rather be dead and have its remaining bones venerated? Or would it rather be alive and drag its tail in the mud?"
"It would rather be alive and drag its tail in the mud?"
"Go away! I will continue to drag my tail in the mud."

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