Monday, March 29, 2010

All human affairs are like that of Saiou’s horse

If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college. –Lewis Black

But no, let’s focus on Saiou’s horse, okay?

I really, really like this. A friend included it at the end of a letter sent to me, written out in romaji: “ningen banji saiou ga uma.”


I was unable to make any sense of it alone, so I presented it to the teachers at small elementary (that’s where I was that day) to get them to translate it for me. But even that was a trip. Because it doesn’t mean anything on its literal face. What I ended up with was “we don’t know about our lives, what will be good or bad” from the teachers.


But it turns out there’s a story behind it, which explains everything and which I will now present.

Once upon a time there was an old man named Sai. He had this horse. The horse ran away. All the neighbors were like “Man, it sucks that your horse ran away!” but Sai was like, “Oh, I dunno…” very circumspect, right? The next day the horse returned leading a second horse. The neighbors all said “Wow, now you got this horse, for free! That’s so great!” But Sai, he was still shrugging it off. Later on, his son was riding the horse. Let’s say it’s the new one. And since he’s not used to it as much, he falls off and breaks his leg. Now the neighbors are back again and they’re crying out “Oh no! It is such misfortune! That poor young man!” but good old Sai, he’s not so sure it’s the worst thing ever.. and sure enough in a few days, the Emperor orders all able-bodied men to join his army so he can take over a neighboring land. But Sai’s son can’t go!

So are all earthly affairs like Saiou’s horse.

When things change from perception-good to bad and back again very quickly, I shake my head and say, I just keep thinking about that horse.

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