Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Story About Big Calabash

One day, an ancient Chinese philosopher, Hui Shi, was visiting his philosopher friend Zhuangzi. Hui Shi told Zhuangzi that the Calabash tree presented by his king bore a large Calabash fruit. The Calabash was too large to be used as a bottle like it usually would be. Hui tried to use it as water jar, but it was too heavy to carry when full of water. He cut it in half and tried to use it as a water ladle. Again, Hui found it was too big, and that it would not work. He could not come up with any other good ideas for its use. He decided that it was useless, and threw out it.

Zhuangzi looked at Hui shook his head, telling him that Hui did not know how to determine the value of things or how to use them. A cat is not as big as a bull, but it catches mice. A bull is not as fast as a cat, but it provides milk. Everything that exists in the world has value, characteristics, and purpose, regardless of its size. It was not the big Calabash that was useless. It was Hui's vision that made it useless. Zhuangzi continued, "If I were you, I would have cut it in half and made each half a boat. One could be gifted to your king as a token of appreciation. You could use the other to enjoy nature out on the West Lake."

Zhuangzi told him not to determine the value of things by size, appearance, or weight. He said everything that exists in the world has value, characteristics, meaning, and purpose. It is only humans who do not understand the value, characteristics, meanings, and purposes things.

This is where the story ends. The author sees more meaning behind the story. There are more interpretations between the lines. Zhuangzi, a naturalist and a philosopher, always took the position of upholding something natural, instead of artificially changing things based on human beings' selfish reasons. The author believes Zhuangzi is not just saying this about nature. His intention might be to extend this thinking to people. I wonder what readers would think if I replaced the above key sentences with: All the people who exist in the world are valuable, and have characteristics, meanings, and a purpose. Do not judge them by height, weight, appearance, personality, scholastic background, or behavior. If you say someone is useless, they are not the one who is useless; it is you who is the useless one.

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