Embracing Uselessness: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Utility


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 23, 2023

3 min read


Embracing Uselessness: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Utility

In a world driven by productivity and usefulness, the ancient Daoist teachings of Zhuangzi offer a refreshing perspective. Zhuangzi argued that reclaiming our lives and finding true happiness and fulfillment requires embracing uselessness. Rather than constantly striving to be productive and serve a purpose, Zhuangzi suggests that it is essential to reject the idea of use altogether. In doing so, we can break free from the pressures of societal expectations and find contentment in simply being.

At the core of Zhuangzi's philosophy is the notion that usefulness itself should not be life's bottom line. Just like a grand and gnarly tree, our worth cannot be reduced to our utility. Disabled bodies, according to Zhuangzi, challenge the utilitarian mindset that dominates our daily lives. By celebrating diversity and difference, we can create a society that values each individual for who they are, rather than what they can contribute.

Moreover, striving to be useful can often be detrimental to our own well-being. Zhuangzi tells a story of a deformed oak tree that laments the miserable lives of its more useful brethren, who are cut off prematurely. By rejecting the notion of usefulness, we can free ourselves from the constant pursuit of external validation and find true freedom and self-expression.

So, how can we apply Zhuangzi's wisdom to our own lives? Here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Embrace the art of "drifting and wandering": Instead of constantly seeking to serve a purpose or meet societal expectations, allow yourself to wander freely. Find joy in exploring different paths and experiences without worrying about praise or condemnation. This mindset of drifting and easy wandering is the essence of true freedom.
  • 2. Reevaluate your life during moments of change: Life-changing events often provide us with an opportunity to reassess our priorities and desires. Instead of dismissing these moments as crises, embrace them as chances to reflect on what truly brings you energy and vitality. Use these moments as catalysts for personal growth and self-discovery.
  • 3. Celebrate diversity and difference: Just as Zhuangzi encourages us to celebrate gnarly trees and disabled bodies, we should also celebrate the unique qualities and perspectives that each individual brings. Reject the notion that usefulness should be the sole measure of a person's worth. Instead, create a society that values and celebrates a wide range of ways of living a good life.

In a world where technology rapidly evolves, it is essential to remember that human nature remains constant. By aligning modern technology with our fundamental human needs, we can create valuable and meaningful products and experiences. The intersection of new technology, exciting customer behaviors, and insights about growth presents an exciting opportunity for the next generation of startups.

In conclusion, embracing uselessness in a society obsessed with utility can lead to a more fulfilling and harmonious life. By rejecting the pressures to constantly be productive and useful, we can find true freedom and self-expression. Let us celebrate diversity, embrace change, and find joy in simply being.

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