The Chinese Farmer

E.H. is a 20-year-old Chinese student in my fraternity. He was sharing a few old Chinese stories he used to hear a bunch. His grandma told him this story that she remembered from when her husband (his grandpa) had passed away. He tries to remember this knowledge his grandmother gave to him, since she is getting old and is in her final days. He also looks back on it when he is sad.

E.H.: So there was once a farmer and a son, and they had a beloved horse that helped the family earn a living. One day the horse ran away, and the neighbor said “your horse ran away what terrible luck”. The farmer replied “maybe so maybe not”. A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild horses back to the farm as well. The neighbor shouted out, “your horse returned, and brought several horses with him, what great luck!” The farmer replied, “maybe so, maybe not.” Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the horses, and the horse broke his leg. The neighbors cried, “your son broke his leg! What terrible luck.” The farmer replied, “maybe so, maybe not”. A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all the boys for the army. They didn’t take the farmer’s son, because he had a broken leg. The neighbors shouted “your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” to which the farmer replied, “maybe so, maybe not, we’ll see”.

As seen in this story, it is really impossible whether to tell whether anything that happens will be good or bad. You will never know what the consequences of misfortune or good fortune will be as only time will tell the whole story. Even if things look great at the start, you can never tell how bad they might get. Same with when things are bad, you never know what good can come out of it. It’s important to remember to just live your life, and not expect too much. Good things come and go, and you cannot get too hung up on the highs or the lows. E.H. explained to me the way he sees this story is if bad things happen, to just ride out the wave, stay humble, and stay balanced.