I liked these passages from the chapter on Taoism in Stephen Prothero’s book God Is Not One:
In the face of a society that championed usefulness, the Zhuangzi championed uselessness, singing the praises of a tree so bent and unkempt that it can’t be used for anything other than shade for an afternoon nap. Zhuangzi didn’t want the Dao to be useful for politics, or even philosophy. He wanted it to be good for nothing. The same goes for each of us. Instead of making yourselves useful, he advised, make yourselves useless. Then everyone will leave you alone.In one of the Zhuangzi’s oft-told tales, a ruler sends his officials to convince Zhuangzi to accept a prestigious government appointment. But Zhuangzi, who is fishing, doesn’t even give them a glance. As he continues his casting, he speaks of the dry bones of an ancient tortoise kept by the ruler in a temple and trotted out on special ritual occasions. “What would you say that the tortoise would have preferred: to die and leave its shell to be venerated or to live and keep on dragging its tail over the mud?” Zhuangzi asks. “It would have preferred to live and drag its tail over the mud,” the officials answer. “Go your ways,” Zhuangzi says, “I will keep dragging my tail over the mud.”As in the Daodejing, the exemplary human being in the Zhuangzi is the sage, described here as a “genuine person.” The Zhuangzi also includes a tantalizing glimpse into a figure that will become central in later Daoism: the immortal who is indifferent to politics, uninterested in fame, unmoved by profit or loss, and unafraid of death.