In modern times, stories are for reading to children to help them learn to read or to put them to bed. Adults read in silence by themselves, if at all. But it wasn’t always that way. In tribal societies, stories were told to all for teaching. Teaching stories were the way to learn about life and spirituality. It may be that returning to that tradition strengthens our connection to the world around us. Let’s take a look at this Zen story to see how.
Once upon a time, there was an old farmer who had worked the land for many years. One day his horse ran away. When the news reached his neighbors, they visited the old farmer and said, “Such bad luck.” “Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse came back with three other wild horses alongside him. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the old man.
The following day, the farmer’s son tried to ride one of the untamed horses. The horse threw him and the son broke his leg. Once again the neighbors came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. Once again the farmer’s response was “Maybe.”
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Since the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.
So what does this mean? Does it mean everything happens for a reason? Perhaps it is saying that there is no good or bad. Is the message more about life being fated? Maybe it’s saying that there is no free will. Is it about acceptance?
What you see will likely depend upon where you are standing. All perspectives could be correct for a certain person at a certain time. When you open yourself to many options, you have lots of opportunity to learn many things. So check out teaching stories. They are not just for kids or for solitary consumption.