Most of us divide up our life experiences into those we like and those we don’t. But the Taoists masters teach us to look deeper. In the flow of yin and yang everything is constantly changing into its opposite. The more we live with awareness of the inevitable tides of Tao, the more it seems superficial and misguided to reject some experiences and try to hold onto others. It is better to accept the wholeness of life.
A traditional Taoist story illustrates these teachings.
When an old farmer’s stallion wins a prize at a country show, his neighbor calls round to congratulate him, but the old farmer says, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”
The next day some thieves come and steal his valuable animal. His neighbor comes to commiserate with him, but the old man replies, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”
A few days later the spirited stallion escapes from the thieves and joins a herd of wild mares, leading them back to the farm. The neighbor calls to share the farmer’s joy, but the farmer says, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”
The following day, while trying to break in one of the wild mares, the farmer’s son is thrown and fractures his leg. The neighbor calls to share the farmer’s sorrow, but the old man’s attitude remains the same as before.
The following week the army passes by, forcibly conscripting soldiers for a war, but they do not take the farmer’s son because he cannot walk. The neighbor thinks to himself, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?” and realizes that the old farmer must be a Taoist sage.
– From The Tao Book and Card Pack by Timothy Freke