Questions and Chaos

Life in the 21st Century

A Zen Story

Saturday, September 1, 2007

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

 From Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors.

I love this story especially on days when things go “wrong.” It’s a reminder that things can always change the next day. The story speaks to our dualistic way of thinking where everything is divided into right or wrong. Our labels aren’t an adequate description of what is happening. It is possible for events to be good and bad at the same time. It often depends on the perspective from which you look at them.   It also speaks to our short term judgement. We really aren’t able to see the long term effects of events in our lives until they happen.