Good or bad, who’s to say?
There’s an old Chinese story that goes like this (as I’ve heard and understand it):
A farmer has several horses that give him status and wealth. Other people in the village often tell him how good it is that he has these horses. He answers: “Good or bad, who’s to say?”
One day the horses breach his fence, break free and run away. He has lost his horses and the villagers are quick to point out how terrible and awful that is. What a bad predicament! The man again answers: “Good or bad, who’s to say?”
The man’s son goes out and starts looking for the horses that have escaped. A few weeks later he returns with the horses along with a few wild horses who had joined the herd. The villagers tell the man how wonderful it is that the man now has his horses back along with a few more! Again, he replies: “Good or bad, who’s to say?”
A few days later, in an attempt to tame and train the wild horses, the man’s son is thrown and breaks his leg. When the villagers hear about the injury they feel so sorry for the man and his son. How terrible! Once again, the man replies: “Good or bad, who’s to say?”
The son must rest and recover and let his leg heal. During his recovery the army marches into town looking to recruit all able-bodied young men to fight in the war. Because of his injury, the son is unable to join the fight. That is very good luck, the villagers say. And again, the man replies: “Good or bad, who’s to say?”
How quick are you to label experiences good or bad? How much of a roller coaster to you ride through life, getting attached to and grasping for the good and having aversion to and trying to avoid the bad?
The man in this story experiences less emotional ups and downs than the villagers who are watching and commenting. By not labeling the experiences/situations good or bad, and not being attached to outcomes or expectations, he’s able to find peace in any situation.
I like to remember this story and tell it on my trips/in my classes when things don’t go or turn out as expected or as desired on the water. Paddling requires that we dance with mother nature, and we’re often reminded that we can’t control the weather or the water.
The only thing we truly have control over is how we respond to what happens.
So, if you want to find more peace in your live, try the strategy of the man in the story. Ask yourself, “good or bad, who’s to say?” Then listen deeply for the answer.
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