Lao Tzu was passing with his disciples and they came to a forest where hundreds of carpenters were cutting trees, because a great palace was being built. So the whole forest had been almost cut, but only one tree was standing there, a big tree with thousands of branches – so big that tenthousand persons could sit under its shade. Lao Tzu asked his disciples to go and inquire why this tree had not been cut yet when the whole forest had been cut and was deserted.
The disciples went and they asked the carpenters, ”Why have you not cut this tree?”
The carpenters said, ”This tree is absolutely useless. You cannot make anything out of it because every branch has so many knots in it. Nothing is straight. You cannot make pillars out of it. You cannot make furniture out of it. You cannot use it as fuel because the smoke is so dangerous to the eyes – you almost go blind. This tree is absolutely useless. That’s why.”
They came back. Lao Tzu laughed and he said, ”Be like this tree. If you want to survive in this world be like this tree – absolutely useless. Then nobody will harm you. If you are straight you will be cut,you will become furniture in somebody’s house. If you are beautiful you will be sold in the market, you will become a commodity. Be like this tree, absolutely useless. Then nobody can harm you.And you will grow big and vast, and thousands of people can find shade under you.”
Lao Tzu was passing through a town. All the young men of the town were forced to be enlisted in the military.They came across a hunchback. Lao Tzu said, ”Go and inquire why this man has been left and not enlisted into the military.”
The hunchback said, ”How can I be enlisted? You see, I am a hunchback. I am of no use.”