Carpe Diem Haiku – devotion


“Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person.” (Albert Einstein)

My thoughts goes to a story I heard many years ago that I need to retell from memory. If anyone know its origin I would like to know that.

Once in China there was a man who wanted a to be a performer at the imperial court. He knew that all the performers were highly skilled and that once a year the emperor selected a few new one to be added to his staff. To have a unique skill he devoted his life to master the trick of throwing a thread across the room with such precision so it passed right through the eye of a needle. When the crucial day had come he went before the emperor and performed his trick. At this point he could do it standing on the head and even blindfolded. The court all applauded and the man was filled with pride. After his performance he was brought before the emperor who asked.
“This is very impressive, you must have trained a lot to obtain such a skill”
The man bowed and flushing he answered:
“I have spent every waking hour perfecting my skill for 10 years, all my strength and soul has been devoted to become a true master”
The emperor was silent for a long time and then answered:
“Execute this man as an example, anyone who spend his valuable time in perfecting such utterly useless skills will meet the same destiny”

carefully select
skills valuable enough –
for wasting time

RICHARD RISLEY CARLISLE (1814-1874) – CIRCUS PERFORMER

RICHARD RISLEY CARLISLE (1814-1874) – CIRCUS PERFORMER


Linked to Carpe Diem – use that quote

June 17, 2014

22 responses to “Carpe Diem Haiku – devotion

  1. I remember this from my youth, and remember thinking back then that the Emperor was wrong. Any dedication and singleminded-ness to a task speaks more of faith; it’s the commitment that is the triumph, not threading the needle. IMHO anyway! Lol

  2. Oh my! I did NOT see that ending coming! And I agree with Cheryl-Lynn — who gets to be the judge of what’s useful and what is not? But … it’s a good reminder … ask yourself *why* you want to master a skill before you spend your life doing so! 🙂

    A great post!

    btw — looked everywhere for the name of the tale but couldn’t help. sorry!

  3. What a brilliant story and such a wise haiku. As I am currently devoting loads of time to perfecting my skill at doing paintings that don’t work 🙂 I think I will take it to heart and seriously rethink my approach.

  4. wasting time is my favourite occupation. luckily it includes a wide variety of activities. actually I think dreaming out the window was/is one of my most useful activities. a beautiful write, Björn.

  5. Almost reminds me of the fable of The Emperor’s New Clothes – we can be blind to the things we think we need over that of what we truly want.

    Thanks for your visit.

      • That is another place to look. But with that ending maybe a Grimm’s brothers tale?

        As with others, putting in key words for your fable didn’t come up with anything close. I think Grimm came up on the second page, but the story wasn’t the same.

        The other option is to actually go to a real library, or if you know a professor who studies the subject of fables. Contact a university and check with the English or Literature departments. Good Luck.

  6. Bjorn, I think those tales were probably supposed to teach a lesson to the young. Emporers were sometimes thought to be nasty just like the cruel rulers in the western myths and fairy tales. We are often told whether the emporer is good or bad. You would probably have to ask an older Chinese person about that tale. Being it’s still known, it was probably one of the more popular ones. 🙂 —Susan

    • Yes this is like a fable… but I can see a certain lutheran morale in this (one I grew up with)… so it could be written by someone like HC Anderson (who used the emperor as a person too…).

  7. Don’t waste time on useless knowledge … awesome thought Bjorn. Learning is an all time and everlasting task. Every day brings new things to learn. Great story.

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