Uncertainty is the only certainty

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Animated version of Alan Watts telling the story of the Chinese farmer – animation by Steve Agnos; from Sustainable Human


Our best friend moves far away. Our house burns, leaving us with none of our material possessions. The man we knew we would love forever leaves us with a shattered heart.

In the immediate aftermath, we respond with despair. And then life intervenes. A business trip takes us to the city where our friend now lives. The insurance company settlement is enough to build the house of our dreams. A new love introduces us to experiences we would never have tried on our own.

Not every aftermath is so sunny, but what we always have is possibility. In this animated version of a story told by philosopher Alan Watts, the loss of a horse leads to a small herd. A son’s accident keeps him from being conscripted as a soldier. Each incident starts with a transforming event. But what at first seems like loss or gain can, over time, become the opposite.

When I traveled as a storyteller, I heard this story many times. The details changed with the teller, but the message was always the same: Uncertainty is the only certainty. Everything else is story material.

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