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.
(in other versions of this story, the farmer says something other than "maybe" - for
instance "we'll see" - or he simply smiles without saying anything)
People's reactions to this story:
"It's comforting to know that good can come from bad circumstances, but not so nice
to face the fact that bad can come from good times. Yet, is there good and bad at
"I guess there is no 'good' or 'bad.' Everything that happens to us is a mixture
of good and bad. You have to just take things as they are."
"Everything happens for a reason, and worrying about what has or will happen has no
effect. So don't worry, be happy!"
"Never judge a situation - wait for the outcome."
"You can't fight fate!"
"God controls our lives. We may not understand his purpose, so just accept what
"Nothing - I mean NOTHING occurs by accident!"
"Don't count your chickens before they hatch!"
"I think the farmer didn't want to jinx himself by agreeing with his neighbors."
"If you try to predict the future, you may be wasting your time. I wonder, then, how
worthwhile is it to plan for the future?"
"This farmer apparently doesn't believe in free will. When he always replies 'maybe'
he must feel that no matter what he says or does it will not make a difference in
the path his life takes."
"I think there's a fine line between optimism and pessimism, the farmer is standing on it."
"We never know what will happen in life. Man is so narrow-minded and naive, yet he
claims to know it all. No one knows where fate will bring us, but people who have
faith in God will have everything set right."
"Although the story may provide relief to people who believe that a superior being
is looking out for us, it in effect tells us to accept our situation without trying
to change it. I'm not sure I agree with that."
"Que sera, sera. Life is a mystery. Don't take it for granted. Accept it, and try
to enjoy the ride."
"I wish I could be as relaxed and peaceful as this farmer. My mother always told me
that I shouldn't worry about things that I can't change."
"This farmer has mastered the art of letting go and letting life take its course.
But he also seems to be a bit unfeeling. I don't think that has to be sacrificed
"I don't think this farmer realized how lucky he was that his son didn't have to go
off to war. A broken leg is always better than getting killed!"
"This farmer sure is a man of few words!"
"If you take life just as it comes, one day at time, eventually you will be able to
see the Big Purpose to it all."
"This story reminds me of the Book of Job in the Old Testament."
"Life isn't a matter of good or bad luck. It's about what you do with what happens
to you - where and how you take it."
"I don't like the fact that there isn't a lot of information about the farmer in this
story. The neighbors don't seem to understand how he feels about life. I guess the
message is that if you think positive about events in your life, they will turn
"This farmer sounds rather confused - maybe because things are happening so fast in
"First this story is about crops, then about horses, then about broken legs! There's
probably some deep meaning in here, but it's over my head."
"Tell the neighbors to mind their own business!"
"Is there meaning to this story? maybe.."
|| Going with the Flow || Is That So? || It Will Pass ||
John Suler, Ph.D. © 1997 All rights reserved.