The Parable of the Taoist Farmer

Again and again in my life, the lesson of this story applies. My only real problem is remembering that it applies at those times when I feel like I’m having nothing but bad luck.

I didn’t write this, so this feels like kind of a cheat of a blog post. But I did try to edit down a version of the story to be succinct. Enjoy.

The Parable

There was once a Taoist farmer. One day the farmer’s only horse broke out of the corral and ran away. The farmer’s neighbors came to the farmer’s house and said, “Oh what bad luck!” The Taoist farmer replied, “Maybe.”

About a week later, the horse returned, bringing with it a whole herd of wild horses, which the Taoist farmer and his son quickly corralled. The neighbors came to see, and as they looked at the corral filled with horses they neighbors said, “Oh what good luck!” The Taoist farmer replied, “Maybe.”

About a month later, the Taoist farmer’s son was thrown from the back of a wild horse that he was trying to tame, and broke his leg. The farmer’s neighbors came to the farmer’s house and said, “Oh what bad luck!” The Taoist farmer replied, “Maybe.”

At that same time in China, there was a war going on between two rival warlords. The warlord of the Taoist farmer’s village was in need of more soldiers, so he sent one of his captains to the village to conscript young men to fight in the war. When the captain came to take the Taoist farmer’s son he found a young man with a broken leg who was delirious with fever. Knowing there was no way the son could fight, the captain left him there. A few days later, the son’s fever broke.

The neighbors, hearing of the son’s not being taken to fight in the war and of his return to good health, all came to see him. As they stood there, each one said, “Oh what good luck!” The Taoist farmer replied, “Maybe.”

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