Taoist story of an old farmer
This website (http://www.awakeblogger.com/2008/09/the-10-very-best-zen-stories/) contains the following story:
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 read this story on several sites on the Internet. It is interesting reading comments people make about the story. I have read comments such as:
“It shows that you have to take the good with the bad”
“Don’t force things, go with the flow”
I have thought deeply about this story and while it appears to me that it fits with “Stuff-Happens”, I think it provides a window into a deeper truth.
Imagine There Is No Good or Bad
Like the John Lennon song invites us to “Imagine…”, I would like us to “Imagine there is no good or bad”.
kinda scary, isn’t it?
For most it really is NOT easy if you try. Actually you will probably resist trying!
We need “bad” to help us recognize “good”. At first I was a bit frustrated at comments I read about the story because I felt people were trying to “pigeonhole” the story into something simplistic and their interpretation changed what I felt was the real meaning, ‘Stuff-Happens”, period.
Then it occurred to me, could it be that this Farmer, does not believe in “Protective God”?
When he has good fortune his friends “imply” that God has graced him and that he is “blessed”. When bad things happen it is clearly the “evil” of bad luck. It could be the “devil” at work, or perhaps the “punishment for man’s sins” (shouldn’t have eaten that Apple and been cast out of Eden, this sort of bad luck would not happen in Eden!).
But, the Farmer simply says “Maybe” because he appears to believe that anything can and will happen. He takes care of the crops, the Horses, his Son and when “Stuff-Happens” it just happens. Do you think he would pray for the horse to return?
Perhaps he believes in God, but it would appear he does not believe in the “Traditional Protective God”.
Stuff-Happens is Scary
So truly believing in “Stuff-Happens” means “we are on our own”. No safety net and no seat belts. It gets worse, it also means that UNFAIR things will happen. For example, if you swerve to avoid a dog in the street and you hit another car you will get sued for the damages you caused not congratulated for saving a dogs life.
However, if you believe that God is good, and good will triumph over evil (and that you will eventually be rewarded for being good, I know, expectations again) and he will take care of you, then unfair things wont happen (or you will get your reward after you die and go to Heaven).
So while many admire the Farmer and his peace and acceptance, they really don’t want to be the Farmer, too scary!