Zhuangzi, a Buddhist monk, expressed the ideals portrayed on the pages of Zhuangzi Speaks: The Music of Nature. The following illustrations are modeled after the comic-book-style illustrations adapted by Tsui Chih Chung and translated by Brian Bruya.
“Zhuangzi thought, people need to be aware of their own existence. You shouldn’t always perceive yourself in comparison with others.”
Hui Shi’s Calabash
Hui Shi, an old friend to Zhuangzi, planted calabash seeds given to him by the king. The seeds produced larger-than-life calabashes, which Hui Shi used as water containers – not so successfully. The large, weak frame burst under the water pressure when handled, rendering his innovation useless.
Zhuangzi wrapped some remaining intact calabashes in nets, fixed them to his waist, and whirled about carefree in a nearby body of water. His clever improvement pointed the disappointed Hui Shi to an unorthodox concept: a calabash can, indeed, be used to hold water; water, however, can also hold a calabash.
Huizi’s Shu Tree
Assorted gnarls and twists afflicted Huizi’s Shu tree. Huizi worried that a carpenter’s plum-line may never grace the large, deformed tree trunk. Zhuangzi considered Huzi’s dilemma and sat with his concerned friend underneath what he believed was a splendid tree. He observed that the supposed maladies protected it from those who would otherwise desire to cut it down. This allowed Huizi to use the Shu tree for shelter, worry free.
Using the Useless
By not practicing what was commonplace for either the calabash or the Shu tree, Zhuangzi freely used the resources to his benefit. He was not shackled by the purposes chained to the materials at hand, as if either grew with a congenital, defined purpose.
We are individuals undefined by our society, peers, or denomination. We have unique strengths and weaknesses; what another may believe we are based on such is independent of who we are. We are neither this nor that – we merely are. A calabash is not a water container – it is a calabash. A Shu tree is not a craftsman’s raw material – it is a Shu tree. We are not our character traits – we are.