From The Chuang Tzu

Free and Easy Wandering

Hui Tzu said to Chuang Tzu, “The king of Wei gave me some seeds of a huge gourd. I planted them, and when they grew up, the fruit was big enough to hold five piculs. I tried using it for a water container, but it was so heavy I couldn’t lift it. I split it in half to make dippers, but they were so large and unwieldy that I couldn’t dip them into anything. It’s not that the gourds weren’t fantastically big-but I decided they were no use and so I smashed them to pieces.”

Chuang Tzu said, “You certainly are dense when it comes to using big things! In Sung there was a man who was skilled at making a salve to prevent chapped hands, and generation after generation his family made a living by bleaching silk in water, A traveler heard about the salve and offered to buy the prescription for a hundred measures of gold. The man called everyone to a family council. ‘For generations we’ve been bleaching silk and we’ve never made more than a few measures of gold,’ he said. ‘Now if we sell our secret, we can make a hundred measures in one morning. Let’s let him have it!”

The traveler got the salve and introduced it to the king of Wu, who was having trouble with the state of Yueh. The kind put the man in charge of his troops, and that Winter they fought a naval battle with the men of Yueh and gave them a bad beating.* A portion of the conquered territory was awarded to the man as a fief. The salve had the power to prevent chapped hands in either case; but one man used it to get a fief, while the other one never got beyond silk bleaching-because they used it in different ways. Now you had a gourd big enough to hold five piculs. Why didn’t you think of making it into a great tub so you could go floating around the rivers and lakes, instead of worrying because it was too big and unwieldy to dip into things! Obviously you still have a lot of underbrush in your head!”

* Because the salve, by preventing the soldiers’ hands from chapping, made it easier for them to handle their weapons.

The Chuang Tzu