Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How Time Passes: It's Complicated

The past couple months have been a blur. And although we have a number of different things going on, I see two things most prominently in my mind reviewing this year to date - my aunt's face, heartbroken and conflicted, and my two-year old daughter, wide-eyed and smiling with pure and earnest interest spread across her darling full and rosey cheeked face. And these two things in my mind's eye are in juxtaposition to one another, and they remind me of the on-going duality of life which is this in my book:

Life sucks - - It's ugly and excruciatingly painful, brutally cruel and violently atrocious, totally unfair and unforgiving, unfeeling and wholly dismissive. And yet, Life can offer the most beautiful and pure moments, and the most splendid and blissfully simple joys.

It's complicated (nodding my head).

Before leaving for work this morning, while scrambling around the house to get us all out the door for work on time and the sweet potato's timely delivery to preschool, I had a lovely lil' brief texting convo with the angel boy-O's mommie, Wendy - - she has her hands full right now with life-changing events underway, as do we, and we were exchanging comments on the details of our latest news, and she wrote: "Oh wow. I don't know whether to say yay or boo," to which I responded, "lol exactly!" And then she wrote: "Well, I do believe that things will work out in the best way possible."

And then she wrote, "Ask [insert my honey-man's name] to tell you the 'How do you know this is a bad thing?' story from Japan." "Still something I kind of live by."

I wrote back to her: "omg LOL I have heard that story sOooooOOooooo many times!"

Wendy's reply: "HA! Glad to hear it's still out there."

Me: "oh yes, like alllll the time."

Wendy: "I have to say, I remind myself of that story when I feel like I'm getting screwed and it really puts things into perspective. We are living proof of the truth of that philosophy right now..."

Me: "Totally, amen sister wife"

Okay, so I just googled this: "Chinese Taoist farmer story about how do you know it's good or bad" -No, really, that's what I typed, really! Anyhow, I found several versions of the Taoist/Chinese farmer story, although the central message is the same across them all. I've included further below the most prominent four versions I found, the first being the closest to my honey-man's version, although my honey-man does note Mongolian nomads and Mongolian invaders specifically, and his version has a herd of horses returning to the village with the first horse, and the villagers tell the farmer he and his family will be rich. Furthermore, as with the first version here, the farmer in my honey-man's version always counters the assumption something is either good or bad, which is exactly what my honey-man often does whenever I'm facing something and attempting to determine it to be either 'good' or 'bad' - - which can sometimes be infuriating when in the moment (lol), as it can either totally dampen a happy celebration, or take away from one's need to complain/be mad, but yet, more often than not --grudgingly at times-- I have to admit he's been right to challenge the assumption!

Version 1:

This farmer had only one horse, and one day the horse ran away. The neighbors came to console him over his terrible loss. The farmer said, "What makes you think it is so terrible?"

A month later, the horse came home--this time bringing with her two beautiful wild horses. The neighbors became excited at the farmer's good fortune. Such lovely strong horses! The farmer said, "What makes you think this is good fortune?"

The farmer's son was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke his leg. All the neighbors were very distressed. Such bad luck! The farmer said, "What makes you think it is bad?"

A war came, and every able-bodied man was conscripted and sent into battle. Only the farmer's son, because he had a broken leg, remained. The neighbors congratulated the farmer. "What makes you think this is good?" said the farmer.

As told by Executive editor, Elise Hancock, in the Johns Hopkins Magazine, November 1993, page 2, in section entitled Editor's Note.

Version 2:

A man named Sei Weng owned a beautiful mare which was praised far and wide. One day this beautiful horse disappeared. The people of his village offered sympathy to Sei Weng for his great misfortune. Sei Weng said simply, "That's the way it is."

A few days later the lost mare returned, followed by a beautiful wild stallion. The village congratulated Sei Weng for his good fortune. He said, "That's the way it is."

Some time later, Sei Weng's only son, while riding the stallion, fell off and broke his leg. The village people once again expressed their sympathy at Sei Weng's misfortune. Sei Weng again said, "That's the way it is."

Soon thereafter, war broke out and all the young men of the village except Sei Weng's lame son were drafted and were killed in battle. The village people were amazed as Sei Weng's good luck. His son was the only young man left alive in the village. But Sei Weng kept his same attitude: despite all the turmoil, gains and losses, he gave the same reply, "That's the way it is."

As told by Chin-Ning Chu, in "The Asian Mind Game: unlocking the hidden agenda of the Asian business culture -- a westerner's survival manual," New York:Macmillan Publishing Company, page 182. (1991)

Version 3:

A man who lived on the northern frontier of China was skilled in interpreting events. One day, for no reason, his horse ran away to the nomads across the border. Everyone tried to console him, but his father said, "What makes you so sure this isn't a blessing?" Some months later his horse returned, bringing a splendid nomad stallion. Everyone congratulated him, but his father said, "What makes you so sure this isn't a disaster?" Their household was richer by a fine horse, which his son loved to ride. One day he fell and broke his hip. Everyone tried to console him, but his father said, "What makes you so sure this isn't a blessing?"

A year later the nomads came in force across the border, and every able-bodied man took his bow and went into battle. The Chinese frontiersmen lost nine of every ten men. Only because the son was lame did the father and son survive to take care of each other. Truly, blessing turns to disaster, and disaster to blessing: the changes have no end, nor can the mystery be fathomed.

The Lost Horse,
Chinese Folktale.

As told by Ellen J. Langer, in" The Power of Mindful Learning," Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley, page 99-100. (1997).

Version 4:

Huainanzi - Daoist Farmer

近塞上之人有善術者,馬無故亡而入胡,人皆弔之。其父曰:「此何遽不為福乎!」居數月,其馬將胡駿馬而歸,人皆賀之。其父曰:「此何遽不能為禍乎!」家富 良馬,其子好騎,墮而折其髀,人皆弔之。其父曰:「此何遽不為福乎!」居一年,胡人大入塞,丁壯者引弦而戰,近塞之人,死者十九,此獨以跛之故,父子相 保。故福之為禍,禍之為福,化不可極,深不可測也。

Translation (see above link for annotations and comment):

Among the people who lived close to the border, there was a man who led a righteous life. Without reason, his horse escaped, and fled into barbarian territory. Everyone pitied him, but the old man said : "what makes you think this is not a good thing?"

Several months later, his horse returned, accompanied by a superb barbarian stallion. Everyone congratulated him. But the old man said: "what makes you think this is cannot be a bad thing?"

The family was richer from a good horse, his son enjoyed riding it. He fell and broke his hip. Everyone pitied him, but the old man said: "what makes you think this is not a good thing!"

One year later, a large party of barbarians entered the border. All the valid men drew their bows and went to battle. From the people living around the border, nine out of ten died. But just because he was lame, the old man and his son were both spared.

P.S. Thanks, Wendy ~ I needed that. I hope everything goes without a hitch this week.
Love you!

No comments: