The Parable of the Old Man and the Horse
Watch a young child when he is first learning to walk, taking those Frankenstein steps, arms raised up instinctively for balance. Oops! Fell down. The child gets on all fours, gets back up again and continues lumbering.
Watch children playing in a playground, running, jumping, falling, getting back up and doing it all again (assuming no one gets hurt, of course).
A baby playing on a beach might get sand in her mouth, and sputters to get it out, her little sandy tongue pushing and instinctively spitting.
One of the great things we can learn from kids (especially young ones, before they’ve unlearned their magic) is to not judge events like these. A fall is just a fall. It’s neither good nor bad, really. It is just a fall and that is all it is. Things just are what they are, until we attach a judgment to them. (Kids are such wonderful teachers, aren’t they?)
When I fell and broke my ankle a couple of months ago, friends commiserated, some saying, “Oh, that’s terrible.” Is it terrible, though? Or is it just a fall? Is it just a broken ankle? Inconvenient, at times challenging, but it’s really neither bad nor good. It just IS.
Another friend recently posted an article about a product’s possible dangers. Some responded “Oh, that’s scary!” Is it? If we don’t assign a judgment, it’s just information to consider and use to make consumer choices about the product.
We have a tendency to assign judgments to things so readily. Neighbors hollering and enjoying an afternoon football game could be an annoyance to some … or it could just be neighbors enjoying a game.
~ ~ ~
An old man lived in a tiny village, and although poor, he had a good, hard-working horse to help him on his farm. “You are lucky to have such a fine horse!” his neighbors told him.
One day, the horse was not in the stable. “What a tragedy!” his neighbors said. “You will not be able to care for your farm and your crops will rot. What a curse!” The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly. Say only that the horse is not in the stable. That is all we know; the rest is judgment. Who knows what is good or bad?”
After a few days, the horse returned … and brought several other wild horses with it into the corral. “You are so blessed! You now have a whole herd!” the man’s neighbors said. He replied “Say only that the horse has returned and brought other horses with him. Who knows what is good or bad?”
The man’s eldest son went out to break the horses and was thrown and broke his leg, right at harvest time. The neighbors came and said, "Your son that you count on is injured. You are so unfortunate!." He only replied, "Say only that my son broke his leg. That is all we know. Who knows what is good or bad?”
A week later, a general of the army came to the village and drafted all the young men of the village to go off and fight a dangerous war, sparing the old farmer’s son because of his broken leg. The villagers came to the old man crying because their sons had been taken. “You are so fortunate your son’s leg was broken! Our sons may never return.” The old man replied “Do not judge or say what is a blessing or a curse. Say only that your sons had to go to war and mine did not. The rest is not known.”
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A wretched curse and a blessing are only distinguished by one’s perception. It’s not easy to alter one’s perception, but with practice, we can unlearn our tendencies to judge and be more like the little children we once were. We can accept that a broken ankle is just a broken ankle. We can accept that what is, sometimes just is.