Friday, April 12, 2013

Bit by Bit - Chapter 12, Part 15

Trey Smith

Tzu-kung traveled south to Ch'u, and on his way back through Chin, as he passed along the south bank of the Han, he saw an old man preparing his fields for planting. He had hollowed out an opening by which he entered the well and from which he emerged, lugging a pitcher, which he carried out to water the fields. Grunting and puffing, he used up a great deal of energy and produced very little result.

"There is a machine for this sort of thing," said Tzu-kung. "In one day it can water a hundred fields, demanding very little effort and producing excellent results. Wouldn't you like one?”

The gardener raised his head and looked at Tzu-kung. "How does it work?"

"It's a contraption made by shaping a piece of wood. The back end is heavy and the front end light and it raises the water as though it were pouring it out, so fast that it seems to boil right over! It's called a well sweep."

The gardener flushed with anger and then said with a laugh, "I've heard my teacher say, where there are machines, there are bound to be machine worries; where there are machine worries, there are bound to be machine hearts. With a machine heart in your breast, you've spoiled what was pure and simple; and without the pure and simple, the life of the spirit knows no rest. Where the life of the spirit knows no rest, the Way will cease to buoy you up. It's not that I don't know about your machine - I would be ashamed to use it!"

~ Burton Watson translation ~
Technology inherently is neither bad nor good -- it is how we utilize it. Too often, we view current technology narrowly, not factoring in how it impacts the basic fabric of interdependent systems.

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

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