I often have a hard time distinguishing between what is good news and what is bad news. When something happens that I perceive as unfortunate, it often turns out to be a blessing in disguise. Because of this, I am trying not to judge situations too quickly. I have encountered some stressful events recently, and I was beginning to worry about a lot of things that I was labeling as “bad news.”
As I was thinking about this today, I was reminded of one of my favorite stories. It is from the Taoist tradition. The story is about a wise old farmer. For many years, he worked his field with the help of an old plow horse. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck, they said sympathetically. “We shall see,” the farmer replied. The next day the horse returned, bringing with it three young wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “We shall see,” replied the old man. The following day, the old man’s son tried to ride one of the new horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors came to offer their sympathy, clucking their tongues over the farmer’s misfortune. “We shall see,” was the farmer’s serene reply. The very next day, military officials came to the village to draft all the young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they left him at home. When the soldiers left with all the other young men, the neighbors returned to congratulate the farmer on his good fortune. The farmer only smiled.
The lesson that this story has for me today is to remain serene, no matter what is going on around me. I do not see the big picture. I can not control the uncontrollable. Many times, the only thing that is within my control is my reaction to the situation. I want my reaction to be calm and peaceful and deliberate, not hysterical and melodramatic. I am learning not to jump to the conclusion that, just because something sounds like bad news, it does not contain a silver lining.
Today I was also reminded of the great wisdom of the mystic, Julian of Norwich, who wrote