The Tao Of Scuffy The Tugboat

Posted in Books, For Meditation, Quickies on  | 2 minutes | 5 Comments →

It had been a while since I last picked up the Little Golden Books classic, Scuffy the Tugboat. As soon as I saw the artwork, I instantly remembered that I'd studied this book intensely when I was just a wee lad with less years under my belt than most humans can count on one hand. I'm grown up now, and grown-ups don't read kid books, right? They're just not suitable for adults to read, so they say.

Scuffy was a red-painted tugboat who found himself suddenly liberated from the drudgery of the local toy store, thanks to the Man With The Polka Dot Tie, who took Scuffy home for his son to enjoy. Much to their dismay, when they plopped Scuffy in the bathtub, the proud little tugboat smugly quipped, "A tub is no place for a red-painted tugboat. I was meant for bigger and better things."

With that in mind, the Man With The Polka Dot Tie took Scuffy to a meandering brook high in the hills, and set him asail. For Scuffy, this was the ultimate liberation, so much so that he followed the brook through all its twists and turns, until eventually getting tossed out to sea, where he realizes his intrepidness was false, and that maybe he was meant for the mundane!

Ultimately, this is a story about contentment, overconfidence and ambition. Sometimes we complain about our jobs. Do we fancy ourselves "meant for bigger and better things?" Surely some do, and there is no harm in that, but when we refuse the lowly tasks because of this idea that we were meant for better, we've got problems (cf. the CEO who refuses to touch the trash).

The irony is finding this lesson in a book that many of us would consider ourselves too smart, too old or too sophisticated to read.


  1. Sometimes childrens books and movies have more wisdom than many of the adult books combined.

  2. Bobaloo


    By far one of the worst traits modern Americans are plagued with. In the end we should all be willing to shovel our own shit.
    Kudos Cl, Kudos.

  3. cl


    Hey, thanks folks. I’m glad you got something out of this one. Honestly, I didn’t think anybody would even comment on it.

    In the end we should all be willing to shovel our own shit.

    Ironically, although it wasn’t my own, I had to shovel a steamy mudpie just the other night – damn dogs!

  4. Karla


    C.S. Lewis would say if a child’s book isn’t a good read for an adult it isn’t worth the child reading it.

  5. D


    Hooray for finding wisdom in simplicity! That’s philosophy at its very best. The Tao of Pooh was one of the first books I bought for my youngest brother.
    Also of interest, Tenrikyo monks have a practice called hinokishin, where they go out and clean stuff like public toilets and try to be happy doing it. If you can cultivate an attitude of happiness under such circumstances, the idea goes, then you will be better prepared to appreciate garden variety happiness wheresoever you find it.

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