WHAT IS GOOD AND WHAT IS BAD? THE STORY OF THE CHINESE FARMER

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One day, a wise Chinese farmer lost his favorite horse to a  herd of wild horses.  When he shared this news with the villagers that evening, there was much dismay, people saying “Isn’t that terrible?” etc.  The wise man simply replied “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

About 10 days later, he discovered that the horse had returned.  Upon hearing this, the empathetic villagers cheered and said things like “Isn’t that wonderful?”, to which he again replied “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

A few days after that, the man’s 19 yr old son was out riding this horse.  The horse got spooked by a barking dog and bucked, throwing off the rider, who broke his leg in the fall.  When the villagers heard of this, they again  exclaimed “What a shame!” etc.  The father said his usual “Maybe yes, maybe no”.

A couple of weeks later, war broke out in the land.  All the healthy young men were required to go fight, but the man’s son did not have to go to war and risk losing his life, because he had a broken leg.

 

This story displays how we as humans are often quick to see things simply and judge things as good or bad.  However,  life is so complex, and over time we can often see the good that came out of the bad, and vice versa.  Appreciating the complex aspects of events, and seeing  the broad picture over time rather than the narrow focus of this day, helps us navigate life.  With our egos, we tend to feel certain that we know what is best for us, and get our hopes dashed when it doesn’t come to pass.  It is much easier on us if we can humbly acknowledge that we don’t really know what’s best for us, and trust life.  This helps us with acceptance, which of course is necessary for peace.  Often the good that comes out of a very challenging time is the personal growth that one realizes afterward has taken place as a result. 

Despite this, we should, of course, continue to show empathy and celebrate with each other, as the kind villagers in the story did.  It is just very helpful to be mindful of the big picture.

 

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