The Maybe Parable

Maybe (Taoist story)

There once 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 seven 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.

"How tragic!" they proclaimed.

"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.

"What luck!" said the neighbors.

"Maybe," said the farmer...


I love this story and I think of it often. It's the perfect reminder of how no event is ever really good or bad, because there is never an ENDING. The story always goes on, like the setting and rising of the sun. You must choose a stopping point, a certain fixed position, to decree something as either good or bad. Like the Yin Yang symbol, all good has the seed of bad, and all bad has the seed of good. They are part of an inextricable whole, relative to the other, and that wholeness creates beauty from the contrast. You cannot have black without white, day without night; so how can one be good and one be bad, if good could not even exist without bad? If bad is necessary for good to exist, doesn't that actually make the bad good too? I think of tragic events - a natural disaster, the Holocaust, 911 - and the beautiful, tear-wrenching, gut-warming stories of human generosity and compassion and courage that would never have been written without the awful event occurring first. 

An amazing woman I know once told the story of how, when she was 18 and pregnant, the father of her unborn child impregnated another woman. At the time it was a tragic and painful experience for her. But 13 years later, when her son went to live with his father, her son had a half-sister of almost the same age. She showed her brother around his new school, introduced him to her friends, and eased his transition into his new life. An incident that any rational person would have initially judged as "bad" turned out, in time, to be a beautiful blessing.


These two stories help me keep a higher perspective which sees the world - and my life - as whole and perfect. Good or bad, we never really know, because we cannot separate the whole into good and bad pieces.

I trust in the inherent balance and wholeness of good/bad, light/dark, day/night. I trust in the silver lining of the storm clouds. I trust that it is always in my power to stay open to the beauty and miracles that can be found ANYWHERE, at any time, if only my eyes are open to perceiving - or creating - them.