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 gourd tree presented by his king had a large gourd fruit. The Calabash was too big to be used as a bottle like it usually is. Hui tried to use it as a water pitcher, but it was too heavy to carry when full of water. He cut it in half and tried to use it as a ladle of water. Once again, Hui found that it was too big and would not work. He didn’t come up with any other good ideas to use. He decided it was useless and threw it away.

Zhuangzi looked at Hui and shook his head, telling him that Hui didn’t 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 gives milk. Everything that exists in the world has value, characteristics and purpose, regardless of its size. It wasn’t the big Pumpkin that was useless. It was Hui’s vision that made him useless. Zhuangzi continued, “If I were you, I would have cut it in half and made each half into a boat. One could be given to your king as a token of thanks. You could use the other to enjoy nature on the West Lake.”

Zhuangzi told him not to judge the value of things by size, appearance, or weight. He said that everything that exists in the world has value, characteristics, meaning and purpose. Only humans are the ones who do not understand the value, characteristics, meanings and purposes of 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 philosopher, always took the position of advocating something natural, instead of artificially changing things based on the selfish reasons of human beings. The author believes that Zhuangzi does not only say this about nature. His intention could be to extend this thought to people. I wonder what readers would think if I replaced the key sentences above with: Every person in the world is valuable and has character, meaning, and purpose. Don’t judge them by their height, weight, appearance, personality, educational background, or behavior. If you say someone is useless, he is not useless; the useless one is you.

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