The Taoist Farmer or Why it’s better not to jump to conclusions2 min read

Sometimes it’s better to hold your horses

There was once a Taoist farmer, living in far distant China when the Earth was still shrouded in the mists of mystery.  One morning, as the dawning sun began to caress the distant horizon, the farmer gazed from his window and saw that his prized stallion had disappeared during the night. Throughout the day, the farmer’s neighbours commiserated with him. “What bad fortune, what bad luck”, they said.  The farmer simply smiled and replied, “Maybe, we’ll see”.

During the following night, the stallion returned – with four mares in tow. As the day unfolded and the news circulated though the village along with the day’s other gossip, the farmer’s neighbours congratulated him on his good fortune (although some of them were really quite envious).  Again, the farmer replied, “Maybe, we’ll see”.

The farmer’s son, who had a gift for taming wild horses, fell to work the next day.  But one of the mares, spirited and possessing a rebellious nature, threw the farmer’s son from her back.  CRACK!  The son’s leg broke as he crashed to the ground.  Again, the farmer’s neighbours – a gossipy bunch, I’m sure you can tell – flocked to the farmer’s house to commiserate. “What bad luck, poor thing. What bad fortune”. Again, the farmer replied, “Maybe, we’ll see”.

The next day – because events in this story follow rapidly on from each other – a local warlord arrived at the village, with an army of conscripts in tow.  The warlord press-ganged all the young men in the village into service – all except the farmer’s son, laid up in bed with a broken leg.  The neighbours now complained about the farmer’s good fortune – although he’d had no control over how things had unfolded.  Again, the farmer replied, “Maybe, we’ll see…”.

The moral of the story is….

The tale of the Taoist farmer can be interpreted in all sorts of ways.  It speaks of the unpredictability of life, of the sometimes arbitrary course of events, and our lack of control over certain areas of our lives.  But perhaps the most important lesson is this:  if we jump to conclusions about the things we encounter, we’ll often get things wrong.  Far better if we keep an open mind, stop ourselves from jumping to conclusions, and let things unfold until we can see clearly what’s going on. And, once again, it’s continental philosophy that can show us the way – as you’ll discover if you click here.


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