Gnarly Gambia

A Taoist proverb taken from the delightful ‘The Tao of Pooh’ by Benjamin Hoff

Hui-Tse said to Chuang-Tse “I have a large tree which no carpenter can cut into lumber. It’s branches and trunk are crooked and tough, covered with bumps and depressions. No builder would turn his head to look at it. Your techings are the same – useless, without value. Therefore, no one pays attention to them.”

“As you know,” Chuang-Tse replied, “a cat is very skilled at capturing its prey. Crouching low, it can leap in any direction, pursuing whatever it is after. But when its attention is focused on such things, it can easily be caught with a net. On the other hand, a huge yak is not easily caught or overcome. It stands like a stone, or a cloud in the sky. But for all its strength it cannot catch a mouse.

“You complain that your tree is not valuable as lumber. But you could make use of the shade it provides, rest under its sheltering branches, and stroll beneath it, admiring its character and appearance. Since it would not be endangered by an axe, what would threaten its existence? It is useless to you only because you want to make it into something else and do not use it in its proper way.”

Gambia is an elegant gnarled tree. It shouldn’t be lumber, it won’t be.

The whole imported education system seeks to mask the bumps and depressions of The Gambia, seeks to sand it down into a refined product. It doesn’t appreciate the underlying character of the country which keeps it ticking over slowly, slowly.

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