“The Boatman’s Sword” or “An Action Made Pointless by Changed Circumstances”

In the ancient kingdom of Chu a man boarded a ship to cross a river. To his dismay, his sword fell out of the boat and into the water. The man hurriedly made a mark on the side of the boat and said: “This is the spot where my sword fell into the river.” He then waited casually for the boat to reach the shore. After the boat neared the edge of the river, he jumped in to search for his sword at the spot where he had made the mark. In the end, he was unable to find his sword.

Original English translation by Patrick Nowlin, Copyright 2013.