Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What is good fortune or misfortune? A Chinese tale

I looked all over the web for this story and have found several versions but the version I enjoy and couldn't find anywhere else follows.

Too often we quickly declare a tragedy or triumph when in actuality only time will tell. Life has always been a struggle... and good fortune is quickly followed by misfortune.

 "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness..."~ Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities

We often get into a hurry far to quickly, inflamed with emotion and our programmed perspectives, we judge. We judge poorly because we don't think and rely on emotion. By acting irrationally, we compromise our principles, we compromise the trust and respect of others and we turn good fortune into bad and miss opportunities to do vice versa.

Thoughts drive Emotions, Emotions drive Actions, Actions drive Results.

If we want better results we've got to use our heads and think. Take the time to expand the space between stimulus and response... and find our freedom, raise our consciousness, and grow as people and as a community. We've been fooled too many times to let this continue. It's time to stop sleep walking and wake up.

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." ~ Victor Frankl

A story that Lao-Tseu, Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism, was fond of telling (coutesy of Thomas D'Ansembourg in his book "Being Genuine: Stop Being Nice, Start Being Real")

A poor chinaman inspired jealousy among some of the richest people in the land because he owned an extraordinary white horse. Whenever he was offered a fortune for the animal, the old man replied "That horse is much more than an animal for me. He's a friend, I cannot sell him."

One day, the horse disappeared. The neighbors gathering around the empty stable gave voice: "Poor fool. It was obvious someone would steal that beast from you. Why didn't you sell him? Oh, what a calamity!"

The owner of the horse was more circumspect: "Let us not exaggerate. Let us say that the horse is no longer in the stable. That's a fact. The rest is only conjecture on your part. How can we know what is fortune or what is misfortune? We only know a fragment of the story. Who knows how it will turn out?"

The people laughed at the old peasant, for long since had they considered him simple minded. Two weeks later, the white horse returned. He had not been stolen. He had simple gone out to graze, and he had brought back a dozen wild horses from his escapade.

Once again, the villagers gathered 'round: "You were right. It was not a misfortune but a blessing!" "I wouldn't go that far." said the peasant. "Let us only say that the white horse has come back. How can we know whether this is good fortune or bad? It is but an episode. How can one get to know the content of a book by reading one sentence?"

The villagers went their way, convinced the old man had lost his mind. Receiving twelve fine horses was indubitably a gift from heaven. Who could deny that? The peasant's son began to break in the wild horses. One of them threw him to the ground and trampled on him.

The villagers came once again and gave their views: "Poor friend! You were right. These wild horses did not bring you luck. Look at your only son, disabled for life. Who will take care of you in your old days? You really are to be pitied!" "Hold It!!" retorted the peasant. "Not so fast. My son has lost the use of his legs. That's all. Who can know what that will bring? Life is presented to us in small segments. No one can predict the future."

Sometime later, war broke out, and all the young men in the village were enrolled in the Army, except for the invalid. "Old man," the villagers lamented, "you were right, your son may no longer be able to walk, but he has stayed with you while our sons have gone off to get killed."

"Please," answered the peasant, "do not judge hastily. Your young people have enrolled in the Army; my son has remained home. That is all we can say God alone knows if that is good or bad."

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