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Books Life & Philosophy

Alan Watts: The Story of the Chinese Farmer

Some of Alan Watts’s most influential lessons and ideas emerged from lectures he gave at universities across the United States, including his story of the Chinese farmer.

The story, recorded and transcribed below (after the jump), is also part of a collection of lectures entitled Eastern Wisdom, Modern Life: Collected Talks: 1960-1969

“You never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune; or, you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.”

Alan Watts
Alan Watts: The Story of the Chinese Farmer

The Story of the Chinese Farmer

Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, all of his neighbors came around to commiserate. They said, “We are so sorry to hear your horse has run away. This is most unfortunate.” The farmer said, “Maybe.” The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it, and in the evening everybody came back and said, “Oh, isn’t that lucky. What a great turn of events. You now have eight horses!” The farmer again said, “Maybe.” 

The following day his son tried to break one of the horses, and while riding it, he was thrown and broke his leg. The neighbors then said, “Oh dear, that’s too bad,” and the farmer responded, “Maybe.” The next day the conscription officers came around to conscript people into the army, and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Again all the neighbors came around and said, “Isn’t that great!” Again, 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.

Alan Watts

‘Maybe’ we pick up clues as we go along, labeling situations as either misfortune or good fortune. But ‘maybe’ everything is the way it’s supposed to be: the yin can’t exist without the yang, the shadow depends on light and vice versa.

The nature of experience proposes a game of chance: the future is too unpredictable to force an outcome so everything must be perceived as neutral.

We never know the consequences of any event other than the one we can emotionally control. Just try to keep a good outlook.

Categories
Creativity Life & Philosophy Photography Poetry Social Media Tech

In the blink of an eye…

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Photo by Wells Baum

That’s how subtleties move along, transparent, through the chaos of abundant information for which the likes of Facebook and Twitter sell our eyeballs to the attention merchants.

As John Berger wrote in Ways of Seeing, “seeing comes before words.” Images overpower our digital world. Video maximizes these stitched images. People lose interest in thinking by themselves and using their imagination.

Said color photography pioneer William Eggleston: “Words and pictures don’t — they’re like two different animals. They don’t particularly like each other.”

Showing speaks louder than telling. One can intuit a concept quicker with a visual cue more so than a verbalized one.

The first taste is with your eyes. But what you perceive in your mind’s eye is what empowers an agile interpretation.

Categories
Creativity Culture Life & Philosophy

The unique shall inherit the Earth

There are three ways to stand out and be remembered:

  1. Be so good that they can’t ignore you.
  2. Be so interesting that they can’t ignore you.
  3. Be so unique that they can’t ignore you.

Talent is usually enough, but everyone can take a great picture. Technology and the internet leveled the playing field.

Grabbing attention can be fleeting. Remember the digital tenet that new things get consumed and forgotten.

But what cements you in someone else’s memory is acting remarkably daring and different.

In a world of masses, it pays to go micro. But the loopholes in individuality are getting smaller and smaller.

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Photo Challenge Photography Poetry Postaday

The car with a dragon tattoo

Photo by Wells Baum

The leaves grow sideways, unimpeded from the downward force of nature.

The car with a dragon tattoo also roars its way into the future.

2017 is the end of the past

Revisiting the roots, 2018 promises to bend into unusual shape.

Categories
Life & Philosophy Psychology Science

Upgrade your human operating system

There is no doubt that the mind changes as it ages. You’ll be a different person in your 20s, 30s, and so on.

For some, brain deterioration is genetic. While you can’t medicate mental problems away, you can upgrade your internal software by widening your perception and controlling your emotions to so-called triggers.

The human brain is plastic

Strengthening the operating system protects against the destructive forces of sensory stimulants that try to undermine chemical synchronicity. Knowing that you can gauge your reactions to uncertainty while strengthening the bonds between neurons and synaptic connections helps alleviate anxiety’s thinking problem.

Babies are born platform agnostic; it’s mostly the environment that shapes their internal compass as they grow into adults. Health, philosophy, and social behaviors produce an entire ecosystem of choices where balancing the right springs and gears to maintain the human clock is the key, per say.