Shrug and Move on

My father-in-law is a fascinating man. He has a grounded personality. Speaks less, as much as needed. Doesn't speak or wish ill of anyone. I respect him.

Moments of intense joy or disappointment don't rock him. He will express his joy in something good and partake in celebrations. A moment later, he is back to his self. Something bad happens, he feels the emotions, and then he is back to his practical self.

I have seen this many times over.

He reminds me of the parable of the Chinese farmer, here in the words of Alan Watts.

Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, all of his neighbours 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 neighbours 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 neighbours 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 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.

He is like the farmer in the story. Good or bad, experiences it. Stays grounded.

Moves on.

I wish to be like him. No intense expression of feelings, shrug.

And move on.

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