Thursday, January 31, 2019

Going With The Flow

Once upon a time, there lived a farmer. While working in his field one day, he lost a horse, and it ran away. That evening, his neighbours came round to see him.

'That's too bad!' they said.

'Maybe,' said the farmer.

The next day, the horse returned to the farm, and brought with it seven wild horses. That evening, the neighbours came round to see the farmer.

'Why, that's great, isn't it?' they said.

'Maybe,' said the farmer.

The next day, the farmer's son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses. While riding it, he was thrown and was injured. That evening the neighbours came round.

'Well, that's too bad, isn't it?' they said.

'Maybe,' said the farmer.

The next day, the Army's conscription officers came round, looking for recruits. They rejected the farmer's son because of his injuries. That evening, the neighbours visited the farmer.

'Isn't that wonderful?' they said.

'Maybe,' said the farmer.

To see this story as told by Alan Watts, please click here.

The above story is a version of the Chinese parable of Sai Weng Shi Ma, also known as The Old Man and His Horse. The story tells us that an event that may initially appear to be good fortune may in fact lead us to bad fortune, and similarly, what we may see as bad fortune may in fact lead us to good fortune. We are reminded that we should be aware of this potential for change, whatever befalls us. It is a lesson in going with the flow.

A modern take of the ideas expressed in this story are seen every day. How many times do we hear about someone having an issue, like missing a train, only to find themselves talking to someone who would go onto to become a friend? Or perhaps the reverse, where we see a happy occasion ruined by some unforeseen catastrophe?

Since I discovered this story years ago, its teaching has helped me on countless occasions. It has served to remind me of the importance of being alert to potential opportunities or pitfalls. When faced with a setback, while taking in the situation I find myself in and analysing it, I keep an eye open for the opportunity to make something good come of it all. Similarly, when I am doing well, I know to remain vigilant, because there is always the potential for something to go awry.

So, we may then wonder if we should even bother to feel happiness or sadness if all good or bad fortune may change with such suddenness and to do so seemingly continuously and forever. This is where acceptance plays its part. It is what it is. Just because I may be aware that things may change for better or worse, does not mean I cannot feel what I feel - and indeed, accepting our emotions are as vital as accepting the reality of our situation. I can enjoy, I can despair, but if I remember that things change, I can perhaps give myself that extra added awareness and resilience as I wait to see what comes next.




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