Wait and See

One of my favorite zen stories is “The Farmer’s Horse:”

One morning, the old farmer’s horse ran away. The neighbors expressed their sympathy: “What bad fortune!” The farmer replied: “We’ll see.”

The next day, the horse returned with a whole flock in tow. The neighbors were over the moon: “How lucky you are!” The farmer replied: “We’ll see.”

The next morning, his son tried to tame the horses. He fell and broke his leg. The neighbors showed consolation: “Such bad luck!” The farmer replied: “We’ll see.”

One day later, the army drafted soldiers. They skipped the farmer’s son. The neighbors were delighted: “What a blessing!” The farmer replied: “We’ll see.”

When my girlfriend was fretting over whether she’d get the job after the interview, I told her: “Just wait and see.” When we were trying to plan our Christmas travels amid covid-rules-confusion, I said: “Just wait and see.” And now that we’re suspended in mid-air between visas, flats, and jobs that may or may not materialize as we’re trying to move in together, I keep saying: “Just wait and see.”

“You always say, ‘wait and see!'” she told me at one point. “It’s like your default policy.” I think at first, she thought I was delaying decisions. Most of the time, however, I use it to ward off judgments. If the other shoe hasn’t dropped, why pretend it’s already on the floor? Our short-term conclusions are often too narrow-minded, biased to the downside, and, well, wrong. Better to wait and see.

If you’re waiting for an important test result, don’t assume it’s going to come back negative. Just wait and see. If you’re worried about how an application will go, don’t throw shade on your performance. Just wait and see. And if you don’t yet have the confirmations you need to book your next vacation, just wait and see.

I don’t know when it started, but at some point, when life poo-pooed all over our plans, my girlfriend sighed and said: “Ah, just wait and see.” I think she’s coming around, and perhaps, if you remember the farmer’s horse, you will be too. We’ll see.