We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want

wagon wheel

It is the center hole that makes the wagon move

We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.

We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.

chapter eleven of the Tao Te Ching
by Lao Tsu
from a lovely translation by Stephen Mitchell
image – Andrew Rollinger

Something From Nothing

In other translations, the last lines read, “Profit comes from what is there, usefulness from what is not there,” or “Thus, when a thing has existence alone it is mere dead-weight; Only when it has wu, does it have life.” Literally, “wu” means “without.”

The foundation of Taoism is a unity and balance between the empty and the active effort. The empty place in a cup is what can hold the contents; if the cup is empty, it is available. Water itself is mutable; it can pour or drip, yielding and gentle, or it can wear down mountains. It’s something to think about in hard times, when emptiness seems to be everywhere.

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