The following is a well know Taoist story that makes us this about whether the outcome of an event is what we think it is.

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.

This story demonstrates how we immediately jump to conclusions about whether something is good or bad. we judge circumstances and situations by the expectation that we associate with them. However, everything is relative and the stance we have taken can easily be shifted with a slight change in context.

This suggests that there is no absolute value that can be placed making something good or bad. The situation is just what it is. We attempt to place meaning on it to rationalize and to give ourselves a sense of control but actually, we are just dealing with the here and now as it occurs at this moment.

Another message underpinning this story is that we have the opportunity to see the good even in the direst of circumstances. If we pay attention to what we are thinking we can catch it when we judge something as negative and look for the hidden gifts in the experience.

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