A Useless Life – Spiritual Story and Explanation

Man In Graveyard Looking At A Tombstone

A farmer got so old that he couldn’t work the fields anymore. So he would spend the day just sitting on the porch. His son, still working the farm, would look up from time to time and see his father sitting there.

“He’s of no use any more,” the son thought to himself, “he doesn’t do anything!” One day the son got so frustrated by this, that he built a wood coffin, dragged it over to the porch, and told his father to get in.

Without saying anything, the father climbed inside. After closing the lid, the son dragged the coffin to the edge of the farm where there was a high cliff.

As he approached the drop, he heard a light tapping on the lid from inside the coffin. He opened it up. Still lying there peacefully, the father looked up at his son.

“I know you are going to throw me over the cliff, but before you do, may I suggest something?”

“What is it?” replied the son.

“Throw me over the cliff, if you like,” said the father, “but save this good wood coffin. Your children might need to use it.”

The author of this story is unknown and greatly appreciated!

What Is the Spiritual Moral / Message of the “A Useless Life” Story?

At its core, the Useless Life parable invites us to delve beyond the surface, to peer into the reservoirs of compassion and wisdom that reside within each interaction. It speaks not merely of a son's impatience or a father's acceptance but resonates with the eternal dance between generations, the legacy of our actions, and the timeless wisdom of foresight.

The farmer, weathered by time and no longer tilling the fields, embodies the fleeting nature of physical capabilities. Yet, his mere presence on the porch echoes a resounding truth—a truth that transcends the bounds of productivity and action. It beckons us to acknowledge the intrinsic value of being, of presence unadorned by productivity metrics or societal expectations.

In contrast, the son, driven by the fervor of youth and bound by the constructs of practicality, finds himself ensnared in the grip of frustration. The coffin he constructs, a tangible representation of his perceived irrelevance of his father's presence, symbolizes the societal inclination to discard what is perceived as unproductive, to embrace the illusion of immediate utility, often at the cost of wisdom and heritage.

However, within this pivotal moment, a cosmic pause arises—a moment pregnant with profound implications. As the son prepares to cast away his father and the wooden vessel into the abyss, a stirring emerges. A tapping—a whisper from the realm of the unseen, echoing from within the confines of the coffin.

It is here that the useless life parable transcends the realm of the mundane and ascends into the spiritual realm, inviting us to question the intentions that underlie our actions. The father, serene amidst the impending descent, offers not resistance but a poignant perspective. His words, imbued with a blend of acceptance and foresight, transcend the immediate circumstance, beckoning the son to contemplate beyond the current moment's limitations.

The father's request, not to preserve himself but the vessel that carries him, unveils the intricate tapestry of intergenerational wisdom. It is an invitation to recognize the cyclical nature of life—to honor the past, embrace the present, and pave a path for the future. The wooden coffin, a vessel initially fashioned to discard the perceived insignificance, transforms into an heirloom—a testament to the foresight and empathy that transcends the boundaries of time.

This story, veiled in simplicity, whispers a timeless truth—the wisdom borne from honoring the continuum of life, acknowledging the intrinsic worth of each moment and individual, and weaving a tapestry of compassion, understanding, and foresight that stretches far beyond the horizon of our existence.

In its essence, this tale serves as a lantern guiding us through the labyrinth of life, reminding us that beneath the layers of transient emotions and actions lies the profound reservoir of empathy, foresight, and interconnectedness—a tapestry woven not merely of threads but of the very essence of our shared humanity.

Personal Reflection Questions

Spiritual stories are an opportunity to reflect on your own life. Here are 10 questions you can use to go deeper with the teachings in this story:

  1. The Weight of Perception: Reflect on moments in your life where perception influenced your judgments about someone's usefulness. How has society's emphasis on productivity shaped your views, and how might this story challenge those perceptions?
  2. Generational Perspectives: Consider the interplay between different generations within families. How do the values and expectations of younger and older generations shape their interactions, and in what ways can understanding emerge across generational divides?
  3. Confronting Frustration and Impatience: Explore your own experiences with frustration and impatience. How have these emotions influenced your relationships, and can you recall instances where a pause, like the one in the story, might have offered a different perspective?
  4. The Symbolism of the Coffin: Contemplate the symbolism of the wooden coffin in the story. How might the act of building the coffin represent societal attitudes towards aging and the elderly? In what ways does this symbolism resonate with cultural narratives about usefulness and worth?
  5. Conversations with Elders: Recall conversations or interactions with elders in your life. How has their wisdom and perspective impacted your own journey, and how do you navigate the balance between honoring the past and embracing the present?
  6. Acknowledging Unspoken Truths: Consider instances where unspoken truths or feelings linger beneath the surface of relationships. How does the father's calm acceptance of his fate bring attention to the unspoken and challenge the son's assumptions?
  7. The Wisdom of Acceptance: Explore the theme of acceptance in the story. How does the father's acceptance of his son's actions, even in the face of potential harm, reflect a deeper wisdom? How might acceptance play a role in your own life?
  8. Legacy and Future Generations: Ponder the father's suggestion to save the good wood coffin for future use by the grandchildren. How does this idea of preserving something for the next generation resonate with your beliefs about legacy and familial continuity?
  9. Cycles of Life and Death: Contemplate the broader themes of life and death in the story. How do you personally grapple with the cyclical nature of existence, and what insights can be drawn from the father's calm acknowledgment of his mortality?
  10. Reassessing Notions of Usefulness: Reflect on the concept of usefulness in the context of the story. How might the story prompt a reevaluation of societal notions around productivity and worth, especially in the context of aging?