How much of the story you tell about yourself is bare facts?
What percentage is your added interpretations and stories?
Let me share with you, my version of, the famous Taoist story of the wise farmer and his black horse.
Our farmer lived in a small village together with his son. He was known and envied by the villagers, not for his wisdom, but for a treasure he owned – a majestic, beautiful, black horse. Even the king wanted to ride this horse and went on offering gifts and tempting prices.
The farmer was quite poor, yet firm in his refusals: “This horse is more than a horse to me; my precious friend. Who sells such a rare companion?!”
One morning, the farmer found the stable empty and the beautiful horse long gone. The villagers came by; each one shared their thoughts and opinions: “Look at you, old fool! Didn’t we tell you to accept the king’s offer? Now, some thieves stole it from you! Or perhaps your dear ‘friend’ left you because you did not know how to treat it! We knew you are not good with horses anyways. What a misfortune!”
The old man heard all the villagers with much patience. Eventually, he responded: “Dear neighbors, you all jump too quick into conclusions. You speak your mind as if it is the absolute truth! What we know for the fact is that the horse is not in the stable… Believe it or not, that is all we really know! All the rest are your interpretations, your projections and created stories… Whether it is a curse or a blessing, I cannot say… We never know!”
The villagers were not satisfied. They felt he just didn’t get it, so they continued in a blaming manner: “Crazy old man! You may fool yourself, but we know for sure that you are cursed… There can be no other explanation… This time, do yourself a favor and listen to us! We know better!”
So saying the villagers shook their head, laughed in ridicule and left. They always thought that the farmer was an idiot and now they could finally tell that in his face, and back it up with “reasons”.
Weeks passed, one morning, the farmer heard a noise – a stampede. The magnificent scenery filled his eyes with tears. Not only his dear horse had returned home but had brought together a dozen more wild horses.
The villagers gathered once more at his home; this time they yelled in much joy: “Congratulations, old man! What a blessing! What a good fortune, old man! You did right in not selling your horse to the king. Now you have so many more. How marvelous! What we originally thought to be a curse turned out to be a blessing. Forgive us, we were wrong.”
The farmer responded with his usual poise, “Dear neighbors, once again you all jumped into conclusions too quickly… You speak your mind as if it is the absolute truth! What we know for the fact is that the horse has returned and a dozen more horses came along… Believe it or not, that is all we really know! All the rest are your interpretations, your projections and created stories… Whether it is a curse or a blessing, I cannot say… We never know!”
The villagers looked puzzled at each other and whispered amongst themselves, “Guys, maybe we were right. He sounds like a fool… An idiot with good fortune…What part of gaining horses could be not a blessing?!”
Soon, the farmer’s son decided to train and tame the wild horses. It was an enormous task, as these horses were strong. Days passed in hardships, sweat, and bruises. Eventually, one of the horses moved wildly and threw the boy in the air; he fell terribly on the ground and broke badly both legs and arms.
The villagers heard the news and rushed for a visit. They shared their usual (unsolicited) opinions: “You proved us right again old man… These horses were not blessings at all, but curses. Your only son, your only support, now became a burden to you… You poor fellow, the season of harvest is ahead and you have got no one to count on at this age. What a misfortune!”
The farmer sighed and responded, “You all seem to be much obsessed with making up stories and comments… Once again you jumped into conclusions too quickly… You speak your mind as if it is the absolute truth! What we know for fact is that my son fell and got severely injured… Believe it or not, that is all we really know! All the rest are your interpretations, your projections and created stories… Whether it is a curse or a blessing, I cannot say… We never know!”
The villagers left frustrated with his talks, mumbling and making unpleasant faces.
It so happened that a neighboring country attacked and the military officials ordered all the capable young men to join the army immediately. From the village, only the farmer’s son got spared as he was deemed unable to fight, due to his injury. The villagers objected, cried and screamed as their sons were taken by the army to the war zone.
“Our sons are never going to return… They will all die… You were right, old man. You were right! Your son’s injury was a blessing. He may be incapable of supporting you, but at least, you have him by your side… You are blessed!”
The wise man spoke with compassion, “Dears, dears… Stop this needless additional suffering, will you?! You speak your mind as if it is the absolute truth! What we know for the fact is that your sons are taken and mine is not… Who says your sons will all die? You are still believing in your projected stories… Let us deal with the fact, and see what can be done to protect our nation. These additional stories and mental interpretations are of no help.”
Gradually, the farmer’s son healed. Together with the rest of the villagers and under the wise guidance of the old man they worked on training the horses and breeding them. Soon China was provided with some of the finest army horses that brought strength and victory in their time and generations after.
After all, what do ou think? Was the missing of the black horse a blessing or a curse?
The biggest enemy you have to deal with is yourself. If there’s no enemy within, then the enemy outside can do us no harm. ― Les Brown
Examine The Storytelling Mind
A leaf does not represent the state of a tree; a page does not represent the quality of a book; likewise, the current situation of your life does not and need not represent the rest of your life. It is in fact, our day to day storytelling mind that causing much stress.
The reality is that life events are but fragments of a bigger story, small scenes of a bigger journey. Focusing too much on every event by itself leads to a one-sided view of life and causes needless suffering. Many of our seemingly miserable situations can be blessings in disguise.
You cannot connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. ― Steve Jobs
#1 How much of the story you tell about yourself is bare facts?
#2 What percentage is your added interpretations and stories?
#3 Are the stories empowering or disempowering?
#4 Do you really need to add a story?
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