Daily Archives: November 19, 2021

Looking for horses in my stead

Jack wrote this in March, 2006. I’m posting it again on his birthday.

I came across this Taoist tale about 50 years ago and copied down to help me keep my eye on what I thought needed keeping an eye on in my life:

Duke Mu of Chin said to Po Lo:  “You are now advanced in years.  Is there any member of your family whom I could employ to look for horses in your stead?”

Po Lo replied, “A good horse can be picked out by its general build and appearance.  But the superlative horse – one that raises no dust and leaves no tracks – is something evanescent and fleeting, elusive as thin air.  The talents of my sons lie on a lower plain altogether; they can tell a good horse when they see one, but they cannot tell a superlative horse.  I have a friend, however, one Chiu-fang Kao, a hawker of fuel and vegetables, who in things appertaining to horses is nowise my inferior.  Pray, see him.”

Duke Mu did so, and subsequently dispatched him on the quest for a steed.  Three months later, he returned with the news that he had found one.  “It is now in Shach’iu.”

“What kind of horse is it?”

“Oh, it is a dun colored mare.”

However, someone being sent to fetch it, the animal turned out to be a coal-black stallion!

Much displeased, the Duke sent for Po Lo.  “That friend of yours,” he said, “whom I commissioned to look for a horse, has made a mess of it.  Why, he cannot even distinguish a beast’s color or sex!  What on earth can he know about horses?”

Po Lo heaved a sigh of satisfaction.  “Has he really got as far as that?”  he cried.  “Ah, then, he is worth ten thousand of me put together.  There is no comparison between us.  What Kao keeps in view is the spiritual mechanism.  In making sure of the essential, he forgets the homely details;  intent on the inward qualities, he loses sight of the external.  He sees what he wants to see, and not what he does not want to see.  He neglects those that need not be looked at.  So clever a judge of horses is Kao, that he has it in him to judge something better than horses.”

When the horse arrived, it turned out indeed to be a superlative animal.

Not many people are looking for horses nowadays.

I hope a few of you blogsters are looking for them and that you’re better at it than I’ve been.