Every Curse a Blessing- Every Blessing, yet, a Curse

Below I copy a post I wrote in September 2012, while my dear roommate Fenghua was helping me cope with the brutal realities of life:

“There really are certain perks about being surrounded by wise, culturally in-touch Asian people:
A traditional Chinese story, as related to me by my roommate Fenghua Yang:


Once upon a time in a country village in China, a family of a mother, father, grandfather, and son lived together on a farm. 

They had a beautiful mare, and she was their prized possession, for she pulled the plow and helped them harvest.

One day the mare ran away, and the mother, father, and son were deeply grieved.

But the grandfather said: “It might not be bad.”

Three days later the mare returned from the wilderness with a mighty steed. Upon this the father exclaimed: “We will now be able to do twice the work and make twice as much money; additionally we may now breed our own horses!”

But the grandfather said: “It might not be good.”

The next week the son was riding the new steed, and the still-wild animal threw him off his back so hard, that upon landing he broke both of his legs. The father and mother were greatly grieved, and they exclaimed “We have lost a good deal of labor, as our son is in pain!”

But the grandfather said: “It might not be bad.”

The very next day, the Emperor’s couriers came through the little village, for the Kingdom was mustering for war, and every family was, by law, required to provide an able-bodied son to the service of the state. The courier came to this particular family, and seeing that he was lame from his accident, declared: “You would be useless on the field of battle. You may stay with your family to heal.” The next week, news came of a terrible battle in which the regiment consisting of young men from this village had been utterly annihilated, and every last man had been killed. Upon hearing the news, the family rejoiced that their son had not shared that fate.

Thus the eternal successions of fate continued, as they continue to this very day, for sometimes the blessing is the curse, the curse the blessing, and no Man knows what Heaven has in store.”


The principles stated above, in that timeless myth, are expressed in a somewhat different way by Alexander Hamilton:

‘Tis the portion of Man assigned to him by the eternal allotment of Providence that every good he enjoys, shall be alloyed with ills, that every source of his bliss shall be a source of his affliction- except Virtue alone, the only unmixed good permitted to his temporal condition…”


I hold it a general principle, that the substance of our universe is primarily amoral. We cannot hold Good and Evil in our hands; and when we act in the name of Good, not only Good but Evil tends to follow, as those acting in the name of Evil tend, in some odd and unseemly way, to produce not only Evil but also Good.

This does not, in any way, suggest that Good and Evil exist only in our minds, or that there can be no Good situations in our reality- for indeed, the Chinese proverb and the Hamiltonian quotation both speak of some sort of Good, though not necessarily the heartfelt or code-based Goods stereoptypically pursued. 

If anything, these two passages illustrate what I take to be the fickleness of our world- which seems to be an endless sea of gray, through which prudence and vigor are the most necessary instruments of navigation. 

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