Note: This is an old zen story I ran across in a book entitled "Tao: The Watercourse Way" by Alan Watts many, many years ago. Mr. Watt's work was a major catalyst for me. His books are still among my favorites. This story is about yin-yang and the cycle of the Universe. Its purpose, in my opinion, is to teach non-judgement of and detachment from outcome. Nothing is either good or bad. It just is. I could go on and on about this, but I will spare you :)

Here's the story followed by an explanation by Alan Watts -


The Farmer's Horse

    There is a story of a farmer whose horse ran away. That evening the neighbors gathered to commiserate with him since this was such bad luck. He said, "May be."

    The next day the horse returned, but brought with it six wild horses, and the neighbors came exclaiming at his good fortune. He said, "May be."

    And then, the following day, his son tried to saddle and ride one of the wild horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. Again the neighbors came to offer their sympathy for the misfortune. He said, "May be."

    The day after that, conscription officers came to the village to seize young men for the army, but because of the broken leg the farmer's son was rejected. When the neighbors came to say how fortunately everything had turned out, he said, "May be."

The yin-yang view of the world is serenely cyclic. Fortune and misfortune, life and death, whether on small scale or vast, come and go everlastingly without beginning or end, and the whole system is protected from monotony by the fact that, in just the same way, remembering alternates with forgetting. This is the Good of good-and-bad.


Alan Watts
Tao: The Watercourse Way
Pantheon Books, New York, 1973

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