Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, 2012 Nobel Prize winner in Physiology or Medicine, the initiator of all-around (iPS) cells told a recently-held public symposium, quote:

“I’m often asked by many people: ‘You are happy that you've won the Nobel Prize, aren’t you?’ But I tell them that everything in life is just like 'Saioh ga uma' (塞翁が馬) – Old Sai’s horse. I was unsuccessful as an orthopedic surgeon, but luckily I found my way in molecular biology." – The Asahi, Oct.4, 2014 issue

“Life is like Old Sai’s horse” is a popular Japanese saying, which is based on the story described in Chinese classic literature written by 准南子- Huai nan zi, the ancient Chinese monarch of Huian nam in circ. BC 135.

The story begins when a horse kept by an old man living near a fort (塞翁) ran away one day. All the neighbors came to console the old man, but he told them not to worry. Months later, Old Sai's horse came back, accompanied by a faster horse. Old Sai’s son loved horse riding. He fell off and broke a leg one day while riding the faster horse. The son became lame. Villagers consoled Old Sai for his son's misfortune. But Old Sai said, “Don’t worry. There’ll be a good day after a bad day.” A year later, the village was attacked by the Hu Country's army, and the fort was destroyed. All the young men of the village were called to the military. Nine out of ten of them died during the war. Old Sai’s son was exempted from conscription because he was lame, so he was unharmed. The story goes on and on describing the happenings of a thread of fortune and misfortune of his family in turn.

So when we say “It’s Saioh ga uma -塞翁が馬(塞翁失馬)” in Japanese (Chinese), we mean that life changes, happiness (success) and unhappiness (failure) rotate. We needn’t to be too glad and too sad at each instance.

Though “the ebb and flow” occurs to my mind as a possibility, I’m not sure of whether it fits the concept. Are there more suitable English equivalents to “Old Sai’s horse”?

  • 5
    塞翁失馬 is Chinese. The Japanese say 人間万事塞翁が馬. Fortune is unpredictable and changeable. Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 8:04
  • 3
    A similar sentiment to that expressed in your penultimate paragraph is in the Rudyard Kipling poem "if". If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same... Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 12:15
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    "It's always darkest before dawn" is one English adage that comes to mind. (Though the literal truth of that is questionable.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 13:26
  • 4
    Life has its ups and downs.
    – Drew
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 17:15
  • 3
    @Drew, That fable is not talking about "ups and downs". It's more about saying the downs are ups in the future and the ups are downs in the future, in other words, life has "no ups and downs". See sivers.org/horses for more info.
    – Pacerier
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 17:18

17 Answers 17


Life is swings and roundabouts

This is a shortened version of the fairground proverb 'What you lose on the swings you win on the roundabouts', current from the beginning of the twentieth century in various forms. It is used to mean that things will balance out in the end.

Source: Penguin Dictionary of Cliches

(British & Australian) also what you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts (British & Australian)
We fell out but, hey ho, it's swings and roundabouts and it's a new gaffer now, a new year, so hopefully I can kick on

Source: TFD

A more recent aphorism, which became famous thanks to the 1994 film Forrest Gump, and is known in both the UK and across the Atlantic.

Life is like a box of chocolates

"Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

Interestingly, Wiktionary says it first appeared in the 1987 Japanese novel Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, following its huge success the novel was translated in English and published two years later.

"Just remember, life is like a box of chocolates." ... "You know, they've got these chocolate assortments, and you like some but you don't like others? And you eat all the ones you like, and the only ones left are the ones you don't like as much? I always think about that when something painful comes up.

  • 6
    I think "swings and roundabouts" is the perfect English idiom to answer the OP's question.
    – Lou
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 11:20
  • +1, this is much better than Shoe's answer
    – Pacerier
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 17:20
  • 9
    +1 for Forrest Gump. Swings and roundabouts would not be idiomatic in AmE (at least that I've ever heard) and would require a few seconds of thought for most people. Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 19:35
  • 15
    The expression "swings and roundabouts" doesn't exist in American English, so it's probably unclear to most Americans.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 17:34
  • 1
    @BenKovitz the aphorism means that from one day to the next you don't know what will happen. If you are the owner of two amusement park rides, one day you might make a profit on the swings, the next day a loss...
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 20:23

Try 'One door closes, another opens'. Doors tend to play an important part in western opportunity metaphor. Is the door open or closed to you?

  • I thought it was a window that opens up.
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 19:41
  • 8
    Great inventor Alexander Graham Bell: “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
    – Narasimham
    Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 4:26
  • The Bell quote would strengthen the answer. Commented May 30, 2017 at 19:08

Blessing in disguise

This English idiom is pretty straightforward, and it fits the immediate meaning of old Sai losing his horse (although in the full story, the chain of events turns sour and sweet alternately).

When old Sai lost his horse, you could say this is a blessing in disguise, as the horse later returns with a herd.

This link here also uses this translation: http://www.chinese-chengyu.com/saiwengshima-a-blessing-in-disguise.html

The Chinese version of this saying is sometimes extended as "塞翁失马,焉知非福": "Old Sai loses his horse, who knows if it is good or bad fortune?" The phrase, like "blessing in disguise", is used to console those who have suffered misfortune, or to refer to bad events that did indeed turn out to be good.

  • 1
    So what's the opposite of blessing in disguise? "misfortune in disguise"?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 17:23
  • This is also the translation chosen on the wiktionary. I like it because it maps with the old man saying "this may foresee good fortune to come", but it doesn't convey the meaning of the other way around ("this may foresee back luck to come" when the two horses come back and before his son breaks his leg riding the white one).
    – desseim
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 17:42
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    This completely misses the aspect of "good things happen, then bad things happen, they balance out". Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 9:29
  • 4
    @GreenAsJade the moral of the story is not that good and bad things balance out, it is that good things may turn out to be bad in the end (and vice versa) and fortune is unknowable. Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 0:57
  • 2
    I agree this is the moral of that story, actually. It is an extra thing (in addition to the balancing out, that is somewhat implied in the story). I don't think "Blessing in disguise" captures this moral, in addition to not capturing the "balancing out", because a "Blessing in disguise" is "one way" and "knowable" (IE a definitely good thing appearing definitely bad). Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 2:09

Consider every cloud has a silver lining.

Every bad situation has some good aspect to it. This proverb is usually said as an encouragement to a person who is overcome by some difficulty and is unable to see any positive way forward.

[The Phrase Finder]

This source attributes the origin to John Milton:

Comus: A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634

I see ye visibly, and now believe
That he, the Supreme Good, to whom all things ill
Are but as slavish officers of vengeance,
Would send a glistering guardian, if need were 
To keep my life and honour unassailed. 
Was I deceived, or did a sable cloud 
Turn forth her silver lining on the night? 
I did not err; there does a sable cloud 
Turn forth her silver lining on the night, 
And casts a gleam over this tufted grove.

The story also brings to mind The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen

"The Ugly Duckling" (Danish: Den grimme ælling) is a literary fairy tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen (1805 – 1875). The story tells of a homely little bird born in a barnyard who suffers abuse from the others around him until, much to his delight (and to the surprise of others), he matures into a beautiful swan, the most beautiful bird of all. The story is beloved around the world as a tale about personal transformation for the better.1


  • "Every cloud has a silver lining" suggests that the present darkness will eventually give way to light. That seems a strange thing to say in response to "You are happy that you've won the Nobel Prize, aren’t you?"
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 18:35
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    @BenKovitz It seems that Yamanaka wasn't referring to winning the prize as the "cloud", but his lack of success as an orthopedic surgeon. By failing there, he was forced to switch careers, and he landed in one where he would excel and win a Nobel Prize.
    – Barmar
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 18:59

Ups and downs comes to mind

rises and falls of fortune; good and bad times:

ebb and flow is similar but to my mind does not have the same connotation of good and bad.

A decline and increase, constant fluctuations. For example, He was fascinated by the ebb and flow of the Church's influence over the centuries.

source: reference.com

  • "Ups and downs" means a totally different thing than what the fable mean. See english.stackexchange.com/questions/199859/…
    – Pacerier
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 17:21
  • 4
    I disagree. Even the fable you quote has ups and downs - however swings and roundabouts might get closer
    – mplungjan
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 21:14
  • 2
    Up means positive and down means negative. The fable is saying that life has "no ups and downs" because what appears as up may be down and what appears as down may be up. In other words, the fable is saying that everything is equally up and equally down.
    – Pacerier
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 23:06
  • 4
    I disagree. The fable shows that you have ups and downs, The lost horse (down) The extra horse (up) THe maimed son (down) etc. The point is not to take either the ups or the downs too seriously as both are temporary conditions, and both the ups and the downs may contain within themselves their antithesis. Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 12:17
  • @BenjaminWade: Your last sentence is key: "ups and downs" just states that fortune is fickle; but it does not say anything about their mutual causality like the OP's story.
    – Amadan
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 6:45

A single word to convey the ups and downs of life is vicissitude, defined as followed by dictionary.com:


  1. a change or variation occurring in the course of something.

  2. interchange or alternation, as of states or things.

  3. vicissitudes, successive, alternating, or changing phases or conditions, as of life or fortune; ups and downs: 'They remained friends through the vicissitudes of 40 years'.

  4. regular change or succession of one state or thing to another.

  5. change; mutation; mutability.

  • 3
    Not a good enough expression. It conveys less than 10% of the meaning conveyed by the actual fable sivers.org/horses
    – Pacerier
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 17:19
  • 1
    Could you provide an example of how you'd use it when describing one's life situation?
    – dwjohnston
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 1:51
  • 1
    “The vicissitudes of life” is a common phrase. Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 14:48

I thing that the saying take the rough with the smooth suggests what you are referring to; the idea that you have to accept the good and bad of life: (from TFD):

  • Prov. Accept difficult as well as easy times. Don't give up on your business just because you lost money this month. You have to take the rough with the smooth.

One saying you hear a lot is that "Fortune is a wheel."

Western civilization has the concept of the "wheel of fortune" (from the Latin "rota fortunae"). The idea is that the wheel of life spins, and sometimes one is at the top and other times at the bottom. See the Wikipedia article Rota Fortunae.

Nowadays that concept has even been applied, quite literally, to a popular American game show, Wheel of Fortune. Contestants spin the wheel to get money and prizes, but any particular spin might bankrupt them or cause them to lose a turn.

  • 1
    Ka is a wheel, do ya ken it?
    – hobbs
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 2:13

Old Sai’s response to fortune and misfortune is captured in the idiom take the bad with the good:

to accept the unpleasant parts of a situation as well as the pleasant parts
Bringing up children certainly has its problems, but you learn to take the bad with the good.
Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed.

After the death of Queen Anne in 1714, J Roberts' The Dismal State of the Nation pointed out that some rulers were evil, like Nero and Domitian, while others were good, like Titus and Trajan, and some rulers vacillated between good and evil in their reigns:

some of them at some Times have so far differ'd from themselves at others, we can scarce believe them the same Persons; we must take the bad with the good, and relate the latter Part of the Reign of Queen ANNE, with as much Justice (tho' not Pleasure) as we have giv'n you a flight Sketch of the former.

In The Monthly Review, an article entitled The History of John Sobieski, King of Poland discusses the competing merits of elected and hereditary monarchial succession, and offers an ambivalent opinion:

It, may indeed be objected that, in this case, you are obliged to take the bad with the good; but in a mixed government, like that of Poland, where the prince is nothing more than a meer shadow of power, it is matter of very little moment who sits upon the throne.

A song published in The Skylark in 1791 applied this sentiment of contentment beyond the political realm:

Then just as it comes, take the bad with the good,
One man's spoon's made of silver, another's of wood;
What's poison for one man's another man's balm;
Some are safe in a storm, and some lost in a calm;
Some are rolling in riches, some not worth a souse,
To-day we eat beef, and to-morrow lobs' scouse:
Thus the good We should cherish, the bad never seek,
For death will too soon bring each anchor a-peak.

In a 1951 edition of The Federationist good weather and bad comes and goes:

The elements may be clouded and blustery today, but the sun will shine tomorrow or some other day. And so it is with life. We must take the bad with the good because there is an Unseen Power that regulates our lives.

The notion has been integrated right into modern pulp fiction, as seen in the dialogue of Bad to the Bone, by Debra Dixon:

"You're not a cop," she told him as she stepped past him. "You're judge and jury, Sully. You like good and evil neatly labeled so you can hate the one and admire the other. Sad fact is, most people are both. You've got to take the bad with the good. Or you'll end up with nothing at all.”

Sully turned on his heel to stare after her. “How many fortune cookies did you have to go through to come up with that pithy little philosophy?”

“Just a lot of bad years and one smart cookie--Madame Evangeline."

Through the years the expression has encouraged English-speaking people to endure the evil and cherish the good that washes over our experience in alternating waves. There is something bad brewing under the surface of every good experience, and there is something good hiding in the back yard of every bad experience, and the optimistic American Proverb turns the expression around:

You have to take the good with the bad!

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You win some and you lose some was the first thought that came to mind for me. This phrase is often sighed with a shrug when misfortune befalls someone who doesn't let it bother them.


In older usage, a Christian religious idiom is very applicable here:

"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away."

English speaking countries were and still are dominated by Christianity so it is no surprise that such an idiom would make it into popular culture. Today, however, I feel that this old phrase is a bit dated. People will surely understand it, but might think it odd that you would choose to say it.

Optionally, there are secular phrases such as:

  • Such is life or That's life which typically implies that these things happen to everyone and accepting it is the only real option.
  • An ounce of pleasure comes with an ounce of pain. This can be used to emphasize the negative or positive portion by changing the unit to gallons or something else. I have also seen this in various forms including pay for pleasure with pain.
  • Roll with the punches. Someone also mentioned the ups and downs of life, which leads to the roller coaster metaphor.
  • Give and take, which surely derives from the Christian saying above. This is versatile allowing also for circumstances where one says he will provide help for help in return. This second usage is more common in my opinion.
  • Of the ones already mentioned, I think One door closes and another opens is pretty good, but it usually implies opportunity of some kind, then you take action, where the parable you mention is more about events that you passively accept happening to you.

Of all of these, I would use "That's life" over any others. This old classic song really captures the idea, especially in the first lyric.

That's life (that's life), that's what all the people say
You're ridin' high in April, shot down in May
But I know I'm gonna change that tune
When I'm back on top, back on top in June

  • \\ "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." Is actually from the Jewish tradition. [Job 1:21] Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 7:03
  • 1
    @SenexÆgyptiParvi Technically, you are right. But it is Christianity that influenced English, not Judaism.
    – user39425
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 7:51

Many years ago, while I was growing up in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania, my father and his fellow red necks would say:

Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.

Their little sing-song delivery burned the expression deep into my memory. Whether they were delighted with the outcome of a situation or disappointed, one man would put on a huge smile and say:

Sometimes you eat the /ˈbæ (ə)r/ ..."

Drawling out that last word with a contrived pronunciation and an exaggerated circumflex pitch, he set his friends up for an antiphonal response. His pitch would bend up--then down--for a pleasant outcome, or it would bend down--then up--for a painful outcome.

The more intense the pleasure or pain of the situation, the longer they paused, but eventually, they would all chime in on the chorus:

and sometimes the /ˈbæ (ə)r/ eats you!

Then they would all laugh out loud.

Having never met this expression in my extensive reading, I always assumed it was a local folk aphorism, but eventually I discovered it has been spreading broadly for quite a while. As early as 1966, it was published in Car and Driver as:

Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you.

Wikipedia reports that at an undetermined time before the end of Elwin "Preacher" Roe's All-Star pitching career in 1954, he comforted himself with the truism:

After being taken out of a game in the second inning, Roe commented that, "Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you."

Elwin Roe was from Arkansas, and the popular perception of a "Western" origin was reinforced in The Big Lebowski. The Stranger with a cowboy consoled the Dude with the expression, adding a healthy dose of confusion surrounding the accent:

Stranger: "Well, a wiser feller than myself once said, 'Sometimes you eat the bar, 'n much obliged, sometimes the bar--why, he eats you."

Dude: "That some kind of Eastern thing?"

Stranger: "Far from it."

Lyndsie Robinson offers a reasonable interpretation for the metaphor in her 7th Lesson from the Big Lebowski:

There's some debate over what the Stranger actually said, since the wonderful Sam Elliott's accent is very strong in The Big Lebowski, but whether you say “bear” or “bar” or “behr,” like my awesome lawyer friend Jon, it remains the same. Life is bipolar. You never know what's going to happen, so the only thing you can do is prepare yourself as best you can and take everything as it comes. Remember, you're abiding; not everything is within your control. Life isn't always fair – but sometimes you're able to jump on that sucker and ride it 'til the wheels fall off. With a White Russian firmly in hand, of course.

The Urban Dictionary affirmed that interpretation in 2008:

Expression describing the bipolar nature of life, the universe, and everything...

As it unfolds before us, our experience of life may be bipolar, but the story of Old Sai's Horse teaches us to integrate the transient outcomes--both pleasant and painful--into a unified interpretation:

Some days you keep a fine filly,
and some days she wanders away.
Some days your missing mare comes home with a sleek steed,
and some days your son breaks his leg riding it...
The cycle perpetuates, but
Old Sai says: Life is like that.

  • My first encounter with a version of the OP's fable was via Zen, the wisdom I tool away from it (that I try to apply to this day) was that all human judgments are (too human) relative, conditioned, and provisional. Loved your answer and narrative. ;-)
    – user98990
    Commented Jul 18, 2015 at 15:29
  • 2
    So true, @LittleEva. My original exposure of this Eastern parable contained "We'll see. "Our rush to call circumstances good and bad, reveals a deeper problem with our puny world view. Regardless of our various religious persuasions, both "pleasant" and "painful" elements of our experiences cooperate for a permanent benefit. Our experience of life is bipolar until we enlarge our frame of reference to include a transcendent reality. We fill the blank as we wish, it remains universally true : "____________ works all things together for the benefit of those who love..."
    – ScotM
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 2:28

Let me tell you the Texas equivalent: Unanswered Prayers.

Unanswered prayers by Garth Brooks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKqZjgIfxe0.

So this boy, had adored his high school classmate. He would pray and pray so hard, so that she would be his girlfriend. But the prayer went unanswered.

However, later in life he married another woman. And then one day the couple met his old class mate. And the then grown man compared his wife with his former classmate and he says to himself "Thank goodness for unanswered prayers !!!"


Rosalind Fergusson, The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs (1983) lists a number of English expressions relevant to fortune, patience, uncertainty, and acceptance, including these:

God sends good luck and God sends bad.

You never know your luck.

Fortune is weary to carry the same man always.

The highest spoke in fortune's wheel, may soon turn lowest.

Bitter pills may have blessed effects.

Every flow has its ebb.

Sadness and gladness succeed each other.

Nothing is to be presumed on, or despaired of.

He that falls today may rise tomorrow.

The tide never goes out so far but it always comes in again.

Bad luck often brings good luck.

Fortune can take from us nothing but what she gave us.

The goat must browse where she is tied.

What can't be cured, must be endured.

He that will be served, must be patient.

Nature, time, and patience are the three great physicians.

Though all of these expressions do indeed have the sound of proverbs, I have encountered very few of them in the wild.


In 1969, Blood, Sweat and Tears released a hit entitled Spinning Wheel. It captured the Zen of Old Sai's horse quite well with its allusion to a merry-go-round in the refrain:

Ride a painted pony, let the spinnin' wheel spin.

The song started with a moderation of our manic tendency in a metaphoric reference to Sir Isaac Newton's gravitational truism:

What goes up must come down.

Most of the rest of the song confronted our predominant depressive attitude, as the author David Clayton-Thomas explained in an interview with Songfacts.com:

"As for the lyrics, everybody was getting so serious about 'The Revolution' and everything else in those days. It was just kind of a way to say, 'Lighten up people. Take it easy. It's all going to come full circle.' And it did. Ten years later, we went from 'The Revolution' to Ronald Reagan."
Emphasis added

The delightful imagery of a merry-go-round was pointed out by musicbanter.com:

"Ride a painted pony, let the spinning wheel spin" suggests a merry-go-round. He is telling you to just get on the ride and let it go.

This merry-go-round metaphor seems to be confirmed by the instrumental finale, a deconstructed rave-up of the Austrian Oh du lieber Augustin, which is a manic-depressive celebration of the balladeer Augustin, who consoled the citizens of Vienna during the Great Plague:

According to legend, once he was drunk and on his way home he fell in the gutter and went to sleep. He was mistaken for a dead man by the gravediggers patrolling the city for dead bodies. They picked him up and dumped him, along with his bagpipes which they presumed were infected, into a pit filled with bodies of plague victims outside the city walls. Next day when Augustin woke up, he was unable to get out of the deep mass grave. He was shocked and after a while he started to play his bag pipes, because he wanted to die the same way he lived. Finally people heard him and he was rescued from this dreadful place. Luckily he remained healthy despite having slept with the infected dead bodies and Augustin became a symbol of hope for Viennese people.

Anglophiles may recognize the final melody as the nursery rhyme Did You Ever See a Lassie, but a translation of the melancholy German lyrics juxtaposed with its cheerful oompah waltz captures our full-circle experience of joy and sorrow:

O, beloved Augustin,
Augustin, Augustin,
O, beloved Augustin,
All is downcast!

Gold is gone, girl is gone,
All is lost, Augustin!
O, beloved Augustin,
All is downcast!

Coat is gone, staff is gone,
Augustin lies in dung.
O, beloved Augustin,
All is downcast!

And wealthy Vienna,
Ruined like Augustin;
Whine with me in one accord
All is downcast!

Every day was a feast,
Now we are plagued with plague!
Just a massive funeral,
That is the rest.

Augustin, Augustin,
Lie down now in your grave!
O, beloved Augustin,
All is downcast!

The pony on the merry-go-round goes up and down, and round and round, and likewise in life, we sense warnings in the best situations, and glean comfort in the worst situations as we complete each cycle of gain and loss. Old Sai understood he could loose his horse, so he wasn't depressed when it ran away. He understood his lame son would gain some benefit, so he wasn't manic when he enjoyed it. Ride a painted pony, let the spinning wheel spin.

  • 1
    "The spinning wheel" is a tenuous aphorism at best, Robusto's suggestions "Fortune is a wheel" and "rota fortunae" is the oldest and best-known version.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 6:00
  • I agree, @Mari-LouA. By itself, the spinning wheel spins is worse than tenuous, but adding the imperatives ride and let in the context of a painted pony adds both rational and emotional substance to the word picture, and the cultural milieu of the expression is compelling in my mind.
    – ScotM
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 7:06
  • Then "let the spinning wheel spin" suggests I have no control over or interest in my destiny, similar to the Italian lascia che sia (i.e Let it be), the idea of balance, of things turning out equal in the end is lost. I'm not entirely convinced this is the sentiment expressed by Old Sai.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 7:33
  • I like this English substitute and the distinction would be lost on most, but I think this is a story of Tao rather than Zen influence. Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 19:19

Given the feedback with "no! It's not the ups and downs!"

Life is like a bad news/good news joke.

The bad news is the horse has no legs. The good news is that the horse is now easier to mount.

For the down vote(s): Look at the example in the question. The bad news is "The horse ran away." The good news is "The horse brought back a faster horse." The bad news is "The son fell off the horse and broke his leg." The good news is "The son was exempt from battle."


From the movie "White Men Can't Jump:" "The sun shines on every dog's butt once in a while."

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