I first read this in Chris Corrigan’s book, The Tao of of Holding Space. Read all of this book many times. I immediately used it to help invite people into an Open Space session. It comes from the Tao Teh Ching, by Lao Tzu — the edition I have is translated by John C. H. Wu.
And as I think of it now, and a design proposal I am working on with some university faculty, staff, and an advisory committee, I think I might use this again to invite the opening to conversation with each other. The release of the managed presentation agenda.
Thirty spokes converge upon a single hub;
It is on the hole in the center that the use of the cart hinges.
We make a vessel from a lump of clay;
It is the empty space within the vessel that makes it useful.
We make doors and windows for a room;
But it is these empty spaces that make the room livable.
Thus, while the tangible has advantages,
It is the intangible that makes it useful.
Zoe, my daughter, now 12, enjoying her first bra, email, cell phone, text messages in abundance, and a bunch of other things that just challenge me as dad, has really turned to her friends. Yes, they are all 12-13. I was looking for an in with Zoe – “When do you find yourself most happy?” She responded quickly – “when I’m shopping.” I hid my interior groan and frown. “Tell me about one of your favorite shopping times.” We proceeded. I just listened. Despite wishing that “shopping” was not the central feature of bliss for her – ever heard of a walk! – I was really happy to see her light up. And, it wasn’t too hard to notice that in her story, she was saying she liked the freedom, to which I could very easily agree that I like it too.