What I have come to realize more and more is how quickly our minds tend to judge life. I am not sure where it comes from; maybe it is from childhood, where we learn the separation of things.
There is a Chinese Proverb that goes something like this…
A farmer and his son had a beloved stallion who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away and their neighbors exclaimed, “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild mares back to the farm as well. The neighbors shouted out, “Your horse has returned, and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the mares and she threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, “Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all the able-bodied boys for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son, still recovering from his injury. Friends shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
The moral of this story, is, of course, that no event, in and of itself, can truly be judged as good or bad, lucky or unlucky, fortunate or unfortunate, but that only time will tell the whole story. Additionally, no one really lives long enough to find out the ‘whole story,’ so it could be considered a great waste of time to judge minor inconveniences as misfortunes or to invest tons of energy into things that look outstanding on the surface, but may not pay off in the end.
Sometimes our own lives are too complicated for us to see the real value in an experience. It is the old…can’t see the forest for the trees syndrome, and only when we step out of our own ‘story’, can we see the universal theme, or lesson, that is inherent in our personal circumstances. These beautiful and delightful Zen stories carry a short and simple message that, if taken wisely, can be used in our own lives.
This story reminds me that no experience is either good or bad. It’s never either, always both. We can never have the whole story, and it is best to wait and see how things unfold rather than rushing in to make a judgement, which is often a waste of our energy.
It reminds people that it's best not to get too upset -- or attached -- to what happens to us. Even something that seems dark and confounding can turn out to be an opportunity, when looked on in hindsight.
The wiser thing, then, is to live life in moderation, keeping as even a temperament as possible, taking all things in stride, whether they originally appear to be ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Life is much more comfortable and comforting if we merely accept what we’re given and make the best of our life circumstances. Rather than always having to pass judgement on things and declare them as good or bad, it would be better to just sit back and say, “It will be interesting to see what happens.”
Remember, not everything is how it first appears…