2008 - Two Essays on Not Knowing
years ago a wise peasant farmer lived in China.
a son who, though an idiot, was the gleam in his eyes - he certainly adored the boy as only a parent can. He also had
one horse - a beautiful horse, which was not only his favorite and beloved possession, but also the workhorse for the farm.
the idiot son left the corral gate open and the horse escaped from his grounds and disappeared into the fields outside the
came to him one by one and announced their condolences. They said, "You are such an unlucky man. It is such bad fortune”"
answered, "Who knows. Maybe it's bad luck, maybe it's good fortune."
shrugged and left.
day the horse returned, followed by twelve wild horses who followed him into the corral; the farmer noticed this, smiled,
and securely locked the corral gate, warning his son, "please dear boy, do NOT leave the gate unlocked again". The boy promised
to do his best.
neighborly people returned and told our wise man about how lucky he was. "It's such great good fortune”!
man replied once more, "Who knows. Maybe it's good fortune, maybe it is not. Who knows”?
happened, the next day his one and only son was attempting to break in one of the wild horses when the horse threw the boy
and the boy broke his leg.
more everyone came to console him. They said, "It's so bad."
the farmer replied, ""Who knows. Maybe it's bad, maybe it's good."
days passed and his poor idiot son was limping around the village with his broken leg, when the emperor's army entered the
village announcing that a war was starting and they conscripted all the young men of the village for a suicidal battle against
overwhelming odds. However, they left the son since he had a broken leg.
more, everyone was so jealous of our wise man. They surrounded him talking about his shier luck. "It is so good for you,"
they said. He answered all thus, ""Who knows. Maybe it's wonderful, maybe it's terrible. WHO KNOWS"?
- the story goes on - forever.
to know, knows NOT. – Ancient saying
The brilliance of NOT knowing:
Listen to Jeff Foster's Interview on "Urban Guru Cafe"
Every four years in the USA we hear the same argument. This train we called the world, life, as we know it, is headed to a bad place, and if
we don’t heed the old Chinese wise man who said “If we don’t change direction we will end up where we are
headed – the abyss of destruction of life as we know it”.
And unless you all come over to MY side of the train (the left or right side of the train) we
will be destroyed.
But what we ignore is this train is on TRACKS. We talk change but changing the side on which we
all sit on the train has never made any real difference. But we don’t notice that!
Look: Whether we are all sitting on the Left side or Right side, the train is still on TRACKS.
So what must happen?
This train is headed to the abyss; what must happen?
We must go out – way out – in FRONT of the train, and install new track to a different
destination, along with a switch to divert the train before it gets to the abyss.
How, you ask, can we DO this?
Maybe – just maybe – in NOT knowing – NOT knowing for example, that the Left
is the correct side or the Right is the correct side to sit on this death train – maybe, just maybe, giving up this
arrogance of our knowing – possibly (I don’t know!) in this space of Unknowing – there abides the possibility
which is unthinkable – to lay new track for the train on which the arguers of a position for either the Left or the
Right can ride to a brighter future.
Thanks to Werner Erhard, who gave a talk in 1982 which I heard
at that time, and which inspired this essay. If you’d like to listen to a recording of that talk Click HERE Now.