Maybe and the Shape of Stories
A Taoist story told by Alan Watts:
Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer who lost a horse. It ran away. And all the neighbors came around 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, "Wow, that's great isn't it!" And he said, "Maybe."
The next day his son was attempting to taim one of these horses and was riding it when he was thrown and broke his leg. And all the neighbors came around in the evening and said, "Well that's too bad isn't it?" And the farmer said, "Maybe."
And the next day the conscription officers came around looking for people for the army. And they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. And all the neighbors came around that evening and said, "Isn't that wonderful!" And he said, "Maybe."
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.
O 'tis true, 'tis true. Kurt Vonnegut put it another way in this delightful talk about the shape of stories:
Video sourced from YouTube here.
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