As I read other blogs, I realize that, at times, all that I am doing is sharing the wisdom of the Internet that has been unearthed and shared by other bloggers. Today’s post, a relatively short one, only emphasizes that truth, as I share this Zen story that has probably made the rounds dozens of times:
Once upon the time there was 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.”
I felt compelled to share it, for it succinctly assists us in our taking a full perspective of the events that occur in our lives and employing patience. Too often, we are quick to determine that something is bad, when, as Hamlet opines, “For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” The old farmer, with years of experience to guide his voice and his response, is able to let the horse run away and know that that temporary loss isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He is able to understand that his son’s injury is an impermanent impediment, and he greets the arrival of the army as an event that may or may not be good. In each one of these instances, the hard, horrible news, horse running away, broken leg, is front and center, and the potential good news to follow needs patience. In addition, the old farmer sees that the delightful news, three wild horses, broken leg keeping son from service, may, as well, have another side, so he cautiously welcomes that news as well. In short, he has perspective, seeing and tending the field from 30,000 feet, instead of the five or ten feet that most of us use.
In essence, the old farmer teaches us not only to have perspective, but also to employ patience as we reflect on the events of our lives. What we see and experience as bad news, may, with time, reveal very good news. Patience and perspective are the keys.