When Tzu-ch’i of Nan-po was taking a stroll by the Hill of Shang, he spotted a great tree that towered above all the rest. Its branches could shelter a thousand horses and its shade would easily cover them all. “What kind of tree is this,” he thought. “Its timber must be quite extraordinary.”
But when looking up he discovered that the higher branches were too gnarled to be used for floorboards or rafters. When looking down he noticed that the trunk was too soft and pitted to be used for coffins. He licked one of the leaves and it left a burning taste in his mouth. He sniffed the bark and the odor was enough to take away his appetite for three days.
‘This wretched tree is completely useless,” he exclaimed, “and this must be why it has grown so large! Aha! –this is exactly the kind of uselessness that the holy man puts to great use.”
by Chuang Tzu