I have been thinking a lot lately about the story of the Man and His Horse. It’s a parable I came across long ago that reminds us of an essential truth about life that can be a great comfort.
Let’s hear it from the Man With the Horse:
There once was a poor old man who owned a beautiful white horse.
Whenever noblemen passed through the village, they always noticed the horse and offered handsome sums of money for the stallion.
But the old man always declined their offers, saying, “This horse is my friend. How can I sell my friend?”
One morning the old man awoke to find the horse was gone. The village people gathered and said, “Old man you were a fool not to sell the horse. You could have been wealthy! Now it has been stolen, and you have nothing. It is a great misfortune!”
But the old man replied, “Don’t go so far as to say that. Whether the horse was stolen or not, or whether it is a misfortune or a blessing, is unknown. All we know is that the horse is not in the stable.”
Some days later the horse returned, bringing with it several beautiful wild mares.
Again, the village people gathered, and they said, “Old man you were right! The horse was not stolen, and it was not a misfortune. It was a blessing, and now you have many fine horses!”
But the old man replied, “Again you go too far. Don’t say it’s a good thing, don’t say it’s a bad thing. Just say the horse is back. Whether it is a blessing or a misfortune is unknown.”
Some days later the old man’s only son began to train the wild mares, but he was thrown and trampled, and one of his legs was badly broken.
Again, the village people gathered. “Oh, old man, you were right! It was not a blessing but a great misfortune, and now your only son is lame!”
With a sigh the old man replied, “Don’t say it’s a good thing, don’t say it’s a bad thing, just say my son has broken his leg. Whether it is a blessing or a misfortune is unknown.”
It happened that a few weeks later the country went to war, and all the able bodied young men were forcibly taken for the military. Only the old man’s son was passed over, because he was crippled.
The whole village was crying and weeping, for they believed their sons would probably be killed and never come home to them.
In their grief they came to the old man and said, “You were right old man, your son’s injury has proven to be a blessing. Your son may be crippled, but he is with you, while our sons are gone forever!”
The old man simply shook his head and said, “Will you never learn? Only say that your sons have been forced into the military and my son has not. More than that is not known.”
Life is a mystery, unfolding moment my moment, event by event.
What looks like misfortune can, in time, be a blessing, and vice versa.
The journey never ends. One path ends, another begins: one door closes, another opens.
Those who are courageous are content with the journey, content to live the moment and grow into it without judgement of its future meaning or value.
I learn and re-learn this lesson nearly every week. I label and judge and suffer when something goes ‘wrong’, only to find out later it was a blessing in disguise. Sometimes the blessing occurred because of action I took and sometimes it just unfolded different than my story would have allowed.
I know this lesson and remember years ago reading a quote about not being attached to the ‘bad’ things OR the ‘good’ things that happen because then we are holding on too tight nothing can unfold in this tight grip.
I have a friend who is very fearful and is almost housebound because of something that almost happened to her. But it didn’t. Yet, instead of her inner narrative being ‘I survived this, more than once. I am resilient,’ her story is, ‘I must avoid any possibility of this ever happening again,’ which is a fallacy of control.
What would be different in your life if you changed your narrative, stopped the interpretation of something as ‘bad’ or ‘good’ even and just stayed in curiosity about what might unfold?
What can you look back on and remember how sure you were that something was so wrong, or so right, and it was turned inside out after all? Can you laugh at yourself and be compassionate at your ‘rightness’? That’s the first step.
It’s like trying to grip sand in a tight fist. What happens? The sand always finds another way out and around your grip. So does life.
Be curious and see what happens to your sense of peace and contentment if you try to be like the man with a horse.
One step you can take is to go out and play in nature. It is a fastest, surest way to let go of your grip on things. The world looks different when we play in nature. Possibilities open and motivation and confidence arise. It is a gift you are given every day. Open your arms and let it in.
If you need some help with these questions and challenges I can be reached at email@example.com for counseling or coaching and your F.U.N.!