Maybe: a Zen koan

The Zen parable was interpreted in Ameslan/ASL by Jolanta Lapiak, June 2009, along with the English text below.


An old farmer who had worked on his farm for many years. One day, his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his villagers came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically. "Maybe," the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed. "May be," replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "May be," answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. "May be," said the farmer.


There is a fortune disguised in misfortune and a misfortune disguised in fortune. We never know what is truly fortunate or misfortunate in a situation or moment.

What is misfortunate at the time may be fortunate at another time, or vice versa.

Diversity is a value to life. There is no perfection.

Also see The Moving Mind: a Zen koan.

These are some ASL lessons, tutorials, and tips that ASL students and language enthusiasts can explore and learn some ASL on their own relaxing pace.

Seeking some challenges? Try some stories, fables, and others in ASL storytelling and poetry. Study a complex system of subtle eye gazes, role-shifting, classifiers, sentence structures, and other linguistic features as well as poetics.