For some reason, in these crazy times, with many of us longing for some wisdom, goodness and guidance to hang onto, this Zen story came to mind. As some look for hope and a dollop of lightheartedness, it seemed timely to share and maybe consider: Do we know what is bad? Do we know what is good? Do we know how things will unfold? Are events linear and obvious ? We might feel overwhelmed and under-experienced to figure out what is happening in our lives sometimes, but history is full of not knowing, calamities, and things out of our control. In the face of fortune or misfortune, what are we to do? It all is in the story and storytelling. So here is the zen farmer story.
Once upon a time, on a fine fall morning, an old farmer went out to tend his animals and crops.
At first light, the farmer was dismayed to see his fence had been crushed by a falling tree during the night. All three of the farmer’s prized horses had disappeared.
The other villagers moaned in sympathy: “Whatever will you do?” they asked the farmer. “This is terrible,” they all cried, shaking their heads sadly, “and right before harvest time, too.”
“Your harvest will rot in the field. What will your family eat this winter? How will you get your crop in without horses?” one of the villagers asked the old farmer.
“We’ll see,” was the farmer’s only reply as he returned to his chores.
Later on that morning, the farmer heard the sound of hooves and, looking up, saw his three horses had returned! What was more, the three horses had two wild horses running with them.
Soon, the villagers were heard to express their delight at the farmer’s good fortune.
“What a wonderful thing to have happen!” the other villagers cried. “What a wealthy man you will be with this new stock of animals!”
“We’ll see,” was all the old farmer would reply.
After lunch that day, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the wild horses to the saddle. Suddenly, the wild horse threw the son to the ground. Running to his injured son, the farmer found his son’s leg badly broken.
The neighbors were soon around to give their opinions.
“What a terrible calamity,” the villagers said. “What a disaster.”
“Now you really won’t be able to get your crop in, without a strong son to help you. He will take months to heal. Whatever will you do now?” the other villagers asked the farmer in despair.
The farmer would only shrug and say: “We’ll see.”
Later that afternoon, military officials rode into the tiny village, with a great clattering of weapons and jostling of horses. Looking grim and serious, the soldiers announced an official conscription. Every young and able man was to be drafted into service that very day.
The farmers son, having just been injured, was left behind, even as other sons and husbands were taken.
No one in the village could believe the old farmer’s good fortune. And not everyone was entirely happy about it.
“Surely the most tremendous good fortune has smiled upon you today,” the villagers grumbled. “How can anyone be so lucky?”
But the old farmer would only reply, “We’ll see.”
How are we to know what is good, what is bad, especially when things can spin so quickly these days? Maybe we choose to LIVE, and do our best in each moment, participate, be involved and have the farmer’s zen approach of “We’ll see.”