The Tao of Pooh, The Stonecutter, and More Thoughts on Keeping up with the Joneses

I recently read The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.  The book is a great introduction to Taoism.  Essentially, the book encourages readers to not fight the happenings of life, to just go with the flow and not try so hard.  

Actually, I was reading this book when I was researching the “Keeping up with the Joneses” post. In The Tao of Pooh there is a story which exemplifies being satisfied with your current situation, and not trying to live another person’s life.  You may be familiar with this story, or maybe not. I wasn’t when I read the book, and I found the story to be a great delight, which is why I’m sharing it here. The story is a Chinese or Japanese parable of unknown authorship. This version is excerpted from The Tao of Pooh. 

The Stonecutter

There 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 stonecutter. 

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 procession. “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 laborers. 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!” 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.


I love irony. We go day in and day out never being satisfied with what we have. What if, we were content with the current situation we were in? I’m not saying we shouldn’t aspire to be more, and eliminate all goals. But if we enjoyed what we were doing at the moment wouldn’t we be happier?

I think, I just graduated with my Master’s degree and I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do now for money.  Shouldn’t I savor the moment where I’m really getting my freelance/tutoring business started? Even if I’m not making any money yet, isn’t there there so much possibility? Creative and inspiring business ideas are flowing through me like a flower about to bloom I shouldn’t envy other successful small business owners. I haven’t been where they’ve been or gone through whatever trials they’ve gone through. I can learn from their mistakes, but I’m on my own journey here. I’m just getting started.

Bon Voyage!