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  • Writer's pictureYurika Vu

How "good" and "bad" can be the same

I wanted to share a Taoist parable that I came across multiple times this past week in my various readings which discussed the concepts of "good" and "bad". Maybe you've heard this story before, but I felt compelled to share it in this week's email.  There was once a poor farmer in ancient China who worked a small plot of land with his teenage son. During this time horses were considered a sign of wealth; the richest person in the province owned no more than a few of them. One day a wild horse jumped the poor farmer’s fence and began grazing on his land. According to local law, this meant that the horse now rightfully belonged to him and his family. The son could hardly contain his joy, but the father put his hand on his son’s shoulder and said, “Who knows what’s good or bad?” The next day the horse made its escape back to the mountains and the boy was heartbroken. “Who knows what’s good or bad?” his father said again.   On the third day the horse returned with a dozen wild horses following.  “We’re rich!” the son cried, to which the father again replied, “Who knows what’s good or bad?” On the fourth day the boy climbed on one of the wild horses and was thrown, breaking his leg. His father ran to get the doctor; soon both of them were attending to the boy, who was upset and in a great deal of pain. The old farmer looked deeply into his son’s eyes, and said, “My son, who knows what is good or bad?” On the fifth day the province went to war.  Army recruiters came through the town and took all the eligible young men to fight the war.  All except for the young man with the broken leg. What a powerful illustration that we never know what truly is good or bad. Yet we try so hard to label things to make them "good" or "bad" to appease our logical minds. We have an impulse to react and make a meaning out of something- that may really be nothing. But this parable teaches us: what is good in one moment can be bad the next and vice versa. So then perhaps "good" and "bad" are the same.  So instead of judging and labeling something "good" or "bad", we can simply choose to be mindful, non judgemental. From that still, quiet place of non judgement it allows us to be open to all possibilities

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