The Taoist Farmer Parable

I’ve met quite a few people telling a version of this story in the past few years: Everything fell apart. It was a complete shit show. But, in hindsight, it was exactly what I needed to happen.

It’s their version of the Taoist Farmer Parable.

The parable says to not judge whatever is happening right now too quickly or harshly. It might be bad, or it might be good, or it might be nothing. Stay in the moment and focus on being what you want to be.

The story (paraphrased) goes:

A farmer had a horse and his neighbors said, “You are so lucky to have a horse to pull your cart for you!” And the farmer replied, “Maybe.”

Then the horse got away and the neighbors said, “that sucks so bad, what horrible luck!” And the farmer replied, “Maybe.”

A few days later the horse returned with 6 wild horses and the neighbors said, “Your horse came back and now you’ve got 7 of them? Bro… I can’t believe your luck.” And the farmer replied, “Maybe.”

The farmer’s son went to work on breaking the wild horses but got thrown and broke his leg. The neighbors said, “Oh no, this is such terribly unlucky news.” And the farmer replied, “Maybe.”

The next day, soldiers arrived to draft all of the young men in the village to go off to fight a war and the farmer’s son was left behind with his broken leg. The neighbors said, “You are so lucky not to have your son be forced to go and fight!” And the farmer replied, “Maybe.”

The point, as far as I can tell, is you can label whatever shitshow or banana split icecream surprise luck you’re getting in the moment however you want, BUT – you really don’t know what’s coming next.

If you want to farm, farm. This is what the Taoist farmer knows.

There will be good. There will be bad. You won’t know exactly how things will turn out, ever. So don’t dwell too long on anything besides the core things you want to do AND can control.

For everything else, “Maybe” is a perfectly good interpretation.