The Importance of Maybe

Yesterday, Susan Cartier Liebel (of “Build a Solo Practice, LLC”) posted a Taoist parable about the importance of keeping your perspective from getting too narrow. Here it is:

There once was a Taoist farmer. One day the Taoist farmerís only horse broke out of the corral and ran away. The farmerís neighbors, all hearing of the horse running away, came to the Taoist farmer’s house to view the corral. As they stood there, the neighbors all 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, hearing of the corralling of the horses, came to see for themselves. As they stood there looking at the corral filled with horses, the neighbors said, “Oh what good luck!” The Taoist farmer replied, “Maybe.”

A couple of weeks later, the Taoist farmer’s son’s leg was badly broken when he was thrown from a horse he was trying to break. A few days later the broken leg became infected and the son became delirious with fever. The neighbors, all hearing of the incident, came to see the son. As they stood there, the neighbors 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 involved in this war. In need of more soldiers, 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.”

According to Taoism, the true significance of events can never be understood as they are occurring, for in every event there are elements of both good and bad. Furthermore, each event has no specific beginning or end and may influence events for years to come.

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