Thus spake the master of charcoal: "Without the wind, the grass does not move. Without charcoal, fire is pointless."


A novice witnessed a gathering of charcoal masters and then returned to ask his own master, saying: "Why do we seek the Tao? Charcoal is dirty and uncontrolled in its heat. Why do we not seek the simplicity, cleanliness and reliability of gas? Why do we not push a button, turn a dial, and achieve perfect fire?"

The master said to the novice: "Why do you ask such foolish questions? Gas is simple because it is simple. If gas were dirty, nobody would use it. If it were hard to control, nobody would buy it. If gas were unreliable, people would treat it with disdain. But because it combines all of these things, people think it one of the gods! But, by not seeking to strive, those who use gas are conquered without effort."

"They are not of the Tao."


The Magician of the Ivory Tower brought his latest invention for the charcoal master to examine. The magician wheeled a large stainless steel box before the master while the master waited in silence.

"This is an integrated, gas and ceramic, general-purpose cooking workstation," began the magician, "ergonomically designed with proprietary components, high output burners, a ceramic cooker and multiple state of the art user conveniences. It took my assistants several hundred man years to construct. Is it not amazing?"

The master raised his eyebrows slightly. "It is indeed amazing," he said.

"After spending so much time creating this wonderful new cooker," continued the magician, "everyone will want to use this cooking workstation. Do you agree to this?"

"Certainly," replied the master, "I will have it transported to the back yard immediately!" And the magician returned to his tower, well pleased.

Several days later, a novice wandered past the charcoal master and said, "I cannot find my cooking tools. Do you know where they might be?"

"Yes," replied the charcoal master, "tools are kept in the new cooking workstation in the backyard. Raise the hood and there you will find your tools."


A charcoal master passed a novice one day. The master noted the novice's preoccupation with a gas-fueled metal cooker. "Excuse me," he said, "may I examine it?"

The novice bolted to attention and stepped aside so that the master might examine the cooker. "I see that this device is not of the Tao," observed the master seeing the tank underneath. "Why does it attract your attention?"

The novice replied that the device claims to have three levels of heat: high, medium, and low, each easily selected by simply turning a knob.

Said the master, "Yet every such device has another level of heat, where the device seeks not to be too hot, nor to be too cool. A level of heat that is perfect for what this device does best."

"Pray, great master," implored the novice, "how does one find this mysterious setting?"

The master turned off the valve on the tank, tore away the hose that fed gas to the cooker, then toppled the device on its side, smashing it to pieces.

And suddenly the novice was enlightened.


Wood met Gas on the road to Changtse. Wood said to Gas: "You are Yin and I am Yang. You are heat and I am smoke. If we travel together we will become famous and earn vast sums of money." And so they set forth together, thinking to conquer the world.

Presently they met Charcoal, who was covered in soot, and lived in a paper bag. Charcoal said to them: "The Tao lies beyond Yin and Yang. It is silent and still as a pool of water. It does not seek fame, therefore nobody knows its presence. It does not seek fortune, for it is complete within itself. It exists beyond space and time."

Wood and Gas, ashamed, returned to their homes.

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