Being useless

It takes time and patient practice to develop qualities that make for a lasting effect. This idea is not easy to hold on to in a society that prizes immediate results. Emptying the mind of the need to be noticed, or thought as special,  allows us to just be ourselves in a simple way:

The sage Chuang-Tzu was walking with a disciple on a hilltop. They saw a crooked, ancient tree without a single straight branch. The disciple said the tree is useless, nothing from it can be used. Chuang-Tzu replied: That’s the reason it is ancient. Everyone seems to know how useful it is to be useful. No one seems to know how useful it is to be useless. 


In the rhythm of the Christian Tradition, Holy Saturday was a day of waiting, of bare church decoration, of things pared down and distractions minimized.

Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought. T. S. Eliot

Wise intention and skillful service need to be nourished by periods of quiet and prayer. Every great tradition includes some from of the Sabbath. In the West we inherited the blessing of the Christian and Jewish Sabbath. Muslims have Friday as their holy day, and likewise Hindus and Buddhists renew their vows of simplicity on full moon, new moon, and quarter moon days. When I was young, Massachusetts had Sabbath “Blue Laws” requiring all forms of business to stop on Sundays. But now, one generation later, we have twenty-four-hour supermarkets and twenty-four-hour banking, seven days a week; our consumer society has claimed the right to operate without constraint. This is a recipe for burnout.

Jack Kornfield, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry: How the heart grows wise on the Spiritual Path

A reminder about love: Will not run out

Freud thought that each person possessed a fixed stock of affection. So if you love someone else you love yourself less.  Freud’s wrong. Love doesn’t run out. It’s the miracle of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. The more we love another person, the more we love ourselves, and everything else, and the world. 

Anna Kamienska, A Nest of Quiet: A Notebook