Reena’s Exploration Challenge #91 — The Relativity of Things


In philosophical daoism, one of Zhuangzi’s continuing themes is the relativity of things, which examines, “this and that.” He talks about the definition of terms and how they can limit. By categorizing every thing into a this or a that, and even more confounding, to assign a judgment on it as to whether it is good or bad (e.g. good vs. evil in Christianity) you’re weaving a world of illusion.

*There is the old story of farmer and the horse:

A mare wanders onto a poor farmer’s property. The villagers congratulate the farmer, but the farmer responds, “How do I know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing?”

The next week the mare runs off. The villagers come to the farmer and express sorrow for his loss. The farmer again responds, “How do I know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing?”

The mare returns in a couple of weeks, followed by a beautiful stallion. The villagers come and congratulate him for his double fortune. The poor farmer responds, “How do I know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing?”

The poor farmer’s only son is enthralled by the stallion and determines to ride him. As he attempts to ride the wild stallion, it throws him, and the son gets a compound fracture when he falls and his leg becomes useless. The villagers offer their sincere condolences for the maiming of the young son. The poor farmer again responds, “How do I know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing?”

Two months later Barbarian hordes invade the country. The emperor’s army is conscripting all able-bodied young men to fight against the hordes. The villagers congratulate the farmer because his son is unable to be conscripted because of his leg. Again, the farmer says, “How do I know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing?”

Are you starting to see a pattern?

It’s easy to have your emotions sway by the winds of change, but better to understand that everything is relative.

*Could not find a source for the story but it’s old and from China.  Will update later if I find the source.

Reena is the host of Reena’s Exploration Challenge.


15 Comments Add yours

  1. Sadje says:

    A very important lesson in your story. Very wisely written post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Thank you. I’m just passing the story along. It’s a good example of what I was trying to convey in the post.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sadje says:

        It is! 👍😍

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Reena Saxena says:

    I’ve come across different versions of this story. The central theme remains the same – accepting life with equanimity. The first lesson I’ve applied to life not to keep talking about the grandeur that once was. The only truth in life is Today.

    Thanks for adding a very wise slice of life!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. msjadeli says:

      Thank you very much, Reena. It doesn’t surprise me that you’re familiar with the story. I agree that living in the past, be it the grandeur or the trauma, is not productive. The “grandeur of the past” is what the US President focuses on to keep his MAGA zombies loyal, and if you examine that grandeur you’ll see it was not so grand, but he and they focus on the illusion of grandeur.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Reena Saxena says:

        Certain things become irrelevant with time. I see may people in their golden years simplifying life. They don’t need as much as they used to.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Reena Saxena says:

    Reblogged this on Reena Saxena and commented:
    Relativity of Things – a philosophical treatise by Jade Li

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Agree with Reena…equanimity is the key.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fortune or Misfortune?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      It’s all in how you look at it — or don’t look at it.


  6. JoAnna says:

    One of my favorite stories! Very few things in life are black or white (good or evil) Most are all kinds of shades, tints, and colors.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Great, glad you know it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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