I’m not an active Buddhist, Taoist (or even a Christian, although I was baptized as such) but every now and then I stumble upon some beautiful stories emerging from those parts of the human mind. What follows is a beautiful Taoist story:
There was an old man with a small farm in China many years ago. He had one son, who did most of the work on the farm and a a neighbor, himself old with a son.
One day the old man’s horse ran off, and the neighbor, seeing this, said, “how terrible, your horse has run off, now work on your farm will be so difficult.” To this the old man replied, “maybe good, maybe bad, we’ll see.”
The next day the old man’s horse returned leading a group of wild horses, and the neighbor, seeing this, said, “how wonderful! You have many horses, now you have great wealth and may live easily.” To this the old man replied, “maybe good, maybe bad, we’ll see.”
The next day the old man’s son was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke his leg, and the neighbor, seeing this, said, “how terrible, your son has broken his leg, now your work will be doubled as nurse and farmer.” To this the old man replied, “maybe good, maybe bad, we’ll see.”
The next day the king’s men came to the farms seeking all able men to fight a distant battle, and the neighbor, sobbing as his son marched off, said “how fortunate you are for having an injured son, mine will surely perish.” To this the old man replied, “maybe good, maybe bad, we’ll see.”
Good or bad are just mental constructs. Even more, they are hurtful mental constructs, because they confine us in specific areas of action. Do only this, and it will be good. Do only that, and it will be bad. In fact, we’re just doing and our concepts of good and bad are blending into each other as the time passes by and the context of our life changes.
What we think it’s bad today may turn to good tomorrow. And our today’s fortune may become tomorrow’s misery. But as we grow and evolve, we see that both “good” and “bad” are just inner projections. It’s how we choose see the world, not how the world “is”. The facts are just facts, but we cover them in various clothes, based on what we learned, on what we expect and on what we hope, thus transforming reality in a series of “bad” or “good” events.
After being on this side of the world for many years, I decided to change perspective. I don’t look for good or bad outcomes. Instead, I choose to see everything as a series of “happy accidents”.
Because happiness is a process. It’s not a goal. Even when you’re going through some “bad” times, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re unhappy. It’s all part of the process of living. Of being you. Of traveling your own path.
Of course, this is a personal choice. I could have chosen to see life as a succession of bad accidents. And indeed, many of the people I know are seeing life like this. I don’t think it’s something fundamentally wrong in that. It’s just a choice, their choice, and I respect it.
Because we’re living with this incredible illusion called “control”. The illusion of being in charge of events. We’re not being in charge of anything, except of the way we choose to see the world.That’s the only real power we have (and, if used wisely, this is way more than we need). Many things are happening beyond our reach and we can’t do a thing to control them. We can modify only an incredibly small part of our physical environment.
So, the rest of reality is way beyond our concept of “control”. Things are just happening. And interpreting reality as a series of accidents has a subtle liberation vibration. We accept accidents because, well, they’re accidents. A fracture in the coherent fabric of forces of reality. The only choice we have is to take advantage of what’s happening. To see it as an opportunity. To continue the travel. Until the next accident, which will, of course, be just another disguised opportunity.
From Bad To Good And Back
Looking back into my personal history I discovered a lot of things that have been considered bad and then turned to good, just as in the taoist story above.
Lived a big part of my life under communism and that meant an incredible limitation of my freedom to move. It was basically impossible to travel as we do it today. I lived like this for about 19 years. But after another 19 years I became a digital nomad. Meaning I established a company on the other side of the world, in New Zealand, and I travel at least 3-4 months each year. Without the pressure of those “bad” times, I couldn’t jump that high.
Another consequence of living under the communism was the limitation of the personal initiative. Everybody was equal. If you would try to do something different, you were quickly spotted and punished (believe me, I tried a few times). But it was this specific limitation that pushed me to start my own company at the age of 29, becoming one of the most visible actors in my field. A big part of my will to differentiate as an individual was fostered during those incredibly limiting times.
When I was serving in the army, a violent series of events generated what we know today as the “Romanian Revolution”. I was convinced that I was going to die during those two weeks. I pushed my own physical limits way beyond I was thinking it’s “normal”. But it was that series of events that made me so resilient and persistent. Those “bad” times strengthened the muscle I used to create the “good” times.
Reading this post was good for you? Was it bad for you? We’ll see 🙂