Friday, March 21, 2008


There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.


Daniel McCullough said...

I'm not sure I would like to live without reason to mourn or occasion to rejoice. It may make us more even tempered but at what price? Joy and sorrow are a large part of the human condition.

tall penguin said...

To me the story is about not getting stuck in judging every event as good or bad. After a while, it can become a roller coaster of emotion. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

I don't think the "maybe" state precludes the joy or grief state. I think it just keeps you from getting too attached to your own perceptions of a situation. Eventually, time reveals the nature of an event. Perhaps, it is our hastiness to label things that causes so much of our misery?

tall penguin