Chuang Chou was wandering in the park at Tiao-ling when he saw a peculiar kind of magpie that came flying along from the south. It had a wingspread of seven feet and its eyes were a good inch in diameter. It brushed against Chuang Chou's forehead and then settled down in a grove of chestnut trees. "What kind of bird is that!" exclaimed Chuang Chou. "Its wings are enormous but they get it nowhere; its eyes are huge but it can't even see where it's going!" Then he hitched up his robe, strode forward, cocked his crossbow and prepared to take aim. As he did so, he spied a cicada that had found a lovely spot of shade and had forgotten all about [the possibility of danger to] its body. Behind it, a praying mantis, stretching forth its claws, prepared to snatch the cicada, and it too had forgotten about its own form as it eyed its prize. The peculiar magpie was close behind, ready to make off with the praying mantis, forgetting its own true self as it fixed its eyes on the prospect of gain. Chuang Chou, shuddering at the sight, said, "Ah! - things do nothing but make trouble for each other - one creature calling down disaster on another!" He threw down his crossbow, turned about, and hurried from the park, but the park keeper [taking him for a poacher] raced after him with shouts of accusation.Focus can be a good thing, but it is not without its dangers. While it is important to concentrate on the matter at hand, if we have tunnel vision, we can find ourselves in a predicament simply because dangers can arise outside our immediate range of vision and, because we are so focused on one thing, we don't see them in time to avert or sidestep them.
Chuang Chou returned home and for three months looked unhappy." Lin Chu in the course of tending to his master's needs, questioned him, saying, "Master, why is it that you are so unhappy these days?"
Chuang Chou said, "In clinging to outward form I have forgotten my own body. Staring at muddy water, I have been misled into taking it for a clear pool. Moreover, I have heard my Master say, `When you go among the vulgar, follow their rules!' I went wandering at Tiao-ling and forgot my body. A peculiar magpie brushed against my forehead, wandered off to the chestnut grove, and there forgot its true self. And the keeper of the chestnut grove, to my great shame, took me for a trespasser! That is why I am unhappy."
~ Burton Watson translation ~
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