Thirty spokes are joined in the wheel’s hub.
The hole in the middle makes it useful.
Mold clay into a bowl.
The space inside makes it useful.
Cut out doors and windows for the house.
The holes make it useful.
Therefore, the value comes from what is there,
But the use comes from what is not there.
(Translated by Stefan Stenudd)
Thirty spokes unite around the nave;
From their not-being (loss of their individuality)
Arises the utility of the wheel.
Mold clay into a vessel;
From its not-being (in the vessel’s hollow)
Arises the utility of the vessel.
Cut out doors and windows in the house (-wall),
From their not-being (space) arises the utility of the house.
Therefore by the existence of things we profit.
And by the non-existence of things we are served.
(Translated by Yu Tang Lin)
Thirty spokes unite in one nave; but it is inn the space for the axle, that the use of the wheel depends. Clay is fashioned into vessels; but it is on their empty hollowness that their use depends. The door and windows are cut out from the walls that form an apartment; but it is in the space that their uses depend. Therefore, that which does not have positive existence serves profitable adaptation, and what has not that serves actual usefulness. (http://ctext.org/dao-de-jing)
Using the examples of the wheel, bowl, and house, Lao Tzu stresses the importance of emptiness. Those are our daily use and necessary stuff for our livelihood. From here, we can extend that concept to many more things that are close to us, which are empty and yet hold usage. Indeed, value comes from what is there, but use comes from what is not there.