was once a stonecutter who was dissatisfied with
himself and with his position in life.
One day, he passed a wealthy merchant's house
and through the open gateway saw many fine possessions
and important visitors.
"How powerful that merchant must be!"
thought the stonecutter. He became very envious,
and wished that he could be like the merchant. Then
he would no longer have to live the life of a mere
To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant,
enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever
dreamed of, envied and detested by those less wealthy
than himself. But soon a high official passed by,
carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants,
and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone,
no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the
"How powerful that official is!" he thought.
"I wish that I could be a high official!"
Then he became the high official, carried everywhere
in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated
by the people all around, who had to bow down before
him as he passed. It was a hot summer day, and the
official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan
chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly
in the sky, unaffected by his presence.
"How powerful the sun is!" he thought.
I wish that I could be the sun!"
Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down
on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the
farmers and labourers. But a huge black cloud
moved between him and the earth, so that his light
could no longer shine on everything below.
"How powerful that storm cloud is!"
he thought. "I wish that I could be a cloud!"
Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields
and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon
he found that he was being pushed away by some
great force, and realized that it was the wind.
"How powerful it is!" he thought. "I
wish that I could be the wind!"
Then he became the wind, blowing
tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees,
hated and feared by all below him. But after a while,
he ran up against something that would not move,
no matter how forcefully he blew against it -- a
huge, towering stone.
"How powerful that stone is!" he thought.
"I wish that I could be a stone!"
Then he became the stone, more powerful than
anything else on earth.
But as he stood there, he heard the sound of
a hammer pounding a chisel into the solid rock
and felt himself being changed.
"What could be more powerful than I, the
stone?" he thought.
He looked down and saw far below him the figure
of a stonecutter.
Benjamin Hoff from The Tao
Artwork © Christophe