The way we learn to judge our sex partners is questionable. We see our bias whenever ideal partnerships break up in spite of what seems the best of circumstances. Often we mistake means for ends. In American culture, we typically put down harmless affections and pleasure of great intrinsic value and treat them as superficial when those things lack money, beauty, or the people are unwilling to play by our rules etc. We abase what serves no other purpose. An ancient Chinese story sheds light on the huge blind spots in our judgment. Though the metaphor does not tell us what to do, it instead shows the folly of our bias.
Thang was a poor, old man but owned an impressive horse. The emperor and entourage, who were just passing through the old mans village, drew the attention of the people after they offered to buy Thang’s horse. The old man politely refused and the emperor, who was not used to hearing ‘no’ left displeased after the old man refused a second offer that was ridiculously generous.
The villagers said that it was bad that he had angered the emperor. The old man said, “I don’t know that. I know that I didn’t sell my horse.” The villagers said of Thang, “he’s old and losing his wits.” Eventually, the horse went missing and people thought that now old Thang would admit it was bad that he hadn’t sold the horse. Thang said, “I don’t know that. I know that the horse is gone.” The villagers called him an old fool.
Eventually, the horse returned, followed by ten wild horses. When the villagers saw that what happend, they said that it was a good thing. the old man said, “I don’t know that. I know that the horse returned followed by wild horses.” The villagers disagreed.
While breaking a wild horse, the old mans son was thrown, dragged and permenantly crippled. The villagers, now seeing there was something too the old mans philosophy, they said, “You’re right. It’s bad that the horse returned. Now your son is crippled and can’t care for you in your old age.” Thang said, “I don’t know that is bad. I know that my son is crippled.” The villagers were filled with contempt and said that it was heartless to refuse to admit that a son being crippled was bad!
Eventually, a war broke out and the Emperor was losing . All of the young men from the village were drafted to make one last, desperate stand, except for the old man’s son, who was crippled. The people approached Thang with tears in their eyes and said that they now know that it was a good thing that his son was crippled. At least his son would live and their sons would surely die. Becoming disgusted, the old man said, “You people never learn!”
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