This story was shared with me by my personal coach Robin H.C., an incredible woman who gave me the gift of this Taoist story in a moment of difficulty in my life. I think of it whenever I have a bad experience and share it with others who need.
The story of the zen farmer and his nosey neighbor Katcha
One day in late summer, an old zen farmer was sitting on his porch – as he did most days after he completed his work – drinking tea and eating Goji berry pastries with his nosey neighbor Katcha. But on this particular day a storm began to brew. There was a loud crack of thunder that spooked the zen farmer’s only horse and it took off into the distance headed for the mountains.
Katcha, the nosey neighbor, offered his condolences: “What a shame. Now your only horse is gone. How unfortunate you are! You must be very sad. How will you live, work the land, and prosper? This is the worst thing that has ever happened to you” The farmer replied: “Could be good. Could be bad. We shall see”
Two days the zen farmer and his nosey neighbor Katcha were drinking tea on the porch once again when the old horse came galloping back. He brought with him a fleet of wild horses. He had returned with twelve younger, healthier horses to help him tend to the land.
Katcha squealed: “How fortunate you are! I thought your horse running off was the worst thing that ever happened to you. As it turns out, it’s simply the best thing. Now you have many more horses. You will certainly have the most prosperous farm in all the land. Isn’t this the best thing that ever happened?”
The zen farmer replied: “Could be good. Could be bad. We shall see”
The following day, the farmer’s 18-year old son was training the wild horses while the zen farmer and his nosey neighbor Katcha drank their tea. He was thrown to the ground by one of them and broke his leg.
“Oh no.” said nosey neighbor Katcha.” I thought when the day your horse ran off was by far the worst day of your life. But this, is certainly your worst day ever. What a tragedy! Your son won’t be able to help you farm with a broken leg. You’ll have to do all the work yourself, How will you survive? You must be very sad”.
Once again, as he always did, the zen farmer said: “Could be good. Could be bad. We shall see”
Several days later a war broke out. The Emperor’s men arrived in the village demanding that all the young men in the village be be conscripted. The farmer’s son was deemed unfit because of his broken leg.
Nosey neighbor Katcha said: “What good fortune you have!!”
And, the farmer replied: “Could be good. Could be bad. We shall see.”
When the broken leg healed the son was only left with a slight limp. And by that time, most of the young village boys had died in the war. Lucky for the villagers the zen farmer and his son were still able to tend to their farm. The old farmer became wealthy and generously shared his crops with the village.
They said: “Oh how fortunate we are, you must be very happy. You have such luck!”
To which, the zen farmer replied: “Could be good. Could be bad. We shall see.”
This story illustrates the inevitability of time. While you can only know for certain what’s happened in the past and present, you can not predict the future. There is great comfort in this understanding, In times where life is stressful, you can take heart knowing it will inevitably pass. There is no stopping time.