The Tao of Eastwood

Chapter 17

The Uncarved Block

Nothing like a good piece of hickory.

The Preacher | Pale Rider

If you embrace the world with compassion,
then your virtue will return you to the uncarved block.
The block of wood is carved into utensils
by carving void into the wood.
The Master uses the utensils, yet prefers to keep to the block
because of its limitless possibilities.

Tao Te Ching | from verse 28

Central to all teachings in the Taoist philosophy is the concept of P’u,pronounced ‘p-ooh’, like the Bear. It is literally translated as the “uncarved block.” Cut up and shaped, the block of wood can be any utensil or tool you wish. Uncarved, however, it maintains its potential to be anything.

The first line of this verse actually reads, “Know the male, yet keep to the female.” It means there is a space where ideas are born and there is a place in which to create them. We use this space of unlimited ideas all the time without realizing it because Western cultures don’t have a name for it. (By Western culture, I mean traditionally European influenced culture, not the Old West cowboy culture. Ironic?)

The Preacher from Pale Rider is yet another ghostly figure with No Name. He shows up mysteriously as, you might say, an uncarved block. He can be anything he is required to be. In this case, the Preacher is the catalyst for change, much like the Stranger from High Plains Drifter.

In Pale Rider, we find an unsuccessful and helpless group of gold prospectors living on the hillsides outside a small frontier village. Being terrorized and intimidated to give up their claims by a well-funded, corporate mining operation, they are in desperate need of help.

The Preacher is everything they are not; decisive and fearless. Formless, he becomes their ideal; a pattern to help them find the courage to stand up for themselves.

In this scene, when the local thugs are harassing one of the prospectors in town, the Preacher transforms a big, plain old stick into a tool for stopping a few bullies.