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kottke.org posts about Tao Te Ching

The story of the Chinese farmer

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2017

In a talk about Taoism called Swimming Headless, Alan Watts shared with his audience the parable of the Chinese farmer.

Once upon a time, there was a Chinese farmer who lost a horse. Ran away. And all the neighbors came ‘round that evening and said, “that’s too bad.”

And he said, “maybe.”

The next day, the horse came back and brought seven wild horses with it. And all the neighbors came around and said, “that’s great, isn’t it?”

And he said, “maybe.”

The point, according to Watts’ interpretation of Lao Tzu’s teachings, is “to try to live in such a way that nothing is either an advantage or a disadvantage”.

The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad, because you never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune. Or you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.

I read the Tao Te Ching in an English class in college, and I remember not getting it. It was a small class, only six students, and none of us white midwestern kids had ever read any Eastern philosophy before and didn’t really understand it, to the professor’s frustration. I wish I could take that class again; I’d get so much more out of it now. (via @sausaw)