We all have heard the Chinese story of the farmer:
“Once upon the time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. ‘Such bad luck,’ they said sympathetically.
‘Maybe,’ the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. ‘How wonderful,’ the neighbors exclaimed.
‘Maybe,’ replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
‘Maybe,’ answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
‘Maybe,’ said the farmer.”
There are several interpretations. One is that whether an event is good or bad is impossible to know at the time. Another is that when things are going well, one shouldn’t go overboard celebrating; and conversely, when things are going poorly, one shouldn’t get too depressed.
To these, I will add another perspective.
To have meaning, events require context, and context always requires more information than the event itself.
Sometimes what is needed is knowledge of the past, such as what was said before—at other times, the exact circumstances, or what followed.
Meaning depends on the relationship of a particular piece of information in relation to other pieces of information.
For example, 33 is just a number. Add a oC, or an oF, and 33 refers to temperature, and two very different temperatures at that.
In the Chinese story of the farmer, good or bad depends on future events.
In each case, the context determines the meaning.
Now all this is fairly self-evident, but the story has particular relevance today.
We live in a world that has greatly expanded the amount of information we receive, while reducing the available context for that information. Partly this is due to the limited time available, but also communications are shorter. The sound bite is pervasive, and more likely to be taken out of context.
Even though we may be able to notice a lie, we are more often unaware of what is missing even when the information is “factual”. The missing part is the context, and that can make all the difference as to how we feel about something, or what we decide to do.
Just like the farmer, “Maybe”, might be the better response to what we see or hear than “Fantastic!” or “How horrible!”
Good post! I checked out your blog fairly often, and you are constantly coming up with some good staff.
I shared this post on my Tumblr, and my followers liked it!
Good luck for the future.
Thank you, Andrew for doing that. Your efforts on my behalf are very much appreciated. I will be posting more written posts soon.
Ⲩour post is great. I check out your blog site pretty often, and yoս are continuously coming up ᴡith some great
staff. I ѕhareɗ this post on my Faсeboօk, and my followers liked it.
Would like to read more frоm you!
Thank you for reading my blog site and your kind words.
Amazing! Ƭhank you for the review!
Tһat’s ɑ helpful post! Certainly a neeԁ to-read and a dіscoveгy!
This ԁefinitely been very heⅼpful to me thanks so much.
Thank you, Sasha, for your comment. I’m glad you found it helpful.
I likе this ⲣost. I ϲheck out үоur blog
site prеtty often, and you are continuouѕly coming up with some good stuff.
I shared this post on my Tumblr, and my followers loved it!
Good luck for the future.
Thank you very much for reading and passing the post on.
There iѕ certainly lots to find out on this subϳect.
I like all the tipѕ you have given.
Thank you and I’m glad you found it helpful.
Cool! Ꭲhanks a lot for this information!
You are very welcome.
Ѕuϲһ a wonderful write-up! Ѕurely a should-read and an eye-openeг!
This serioᥙsly made it easier for me thanks so much.
Thank you very much for commenting!
Ρrobably оne of my favorite web blogѕ to read through every morning with a drink of coffee!
Cooⅼ! Thanks a lot fоr this artіcle!
Your aρproach is quite different in contraѕt tߋ other bloggerѕ I
have checked articles from. Thank you for sharing when you’ve got the time, think I’ll take notes from this post.
[…] next year will be different. What if what we considered success and failure were altered? I wrote a blog post on the Chinese fable of the farmer by Alan Watts in November 2018 that also presents an approach to […]