A while ago I read a Sufi tale that I would like to share with you today. It is short and has a moral.
A long time ago, in a poor Chinese village, there lived a farmer with his son. His only material belonging, other than his land and a small straw house, was a horse that he had inherited from his father.
One fine day the horse escaped, leaving the man without an animal to work his land. His neighbours, who treated him with lots of respect due to his honesty and diligence, came to his house to tell him how sorry they felt about what had happened. He thanked them for coming but he asked: How can you know that what happened was a misfortune in my life? Bad luck, good luck… who knows?
Someone quietly said to a friend: “He doesn’t want to accept reality, let’s leave him to think whatever he wants, then he won’t become sad about what has happened”.
The neighbours left, pretending that they agreed with what they had heard.
A week later, the horse returned to the stable, but it wasn’t alone: it brought a beautiful mare along with it for company. On learning this, the residents of the village, overjoyed because it was only then that they had understood the response that the man had given them, went back to the farmer to congratulate him on his luck.
“Before you just had one horse, and now you have two. Congratulations!” they said
“Thank you for coming and for your support. But how do you know that what has happened is a blessing in my life? Good luck or bad luck… who knows?
Bewildered and thinking that the man was going mad, the neighbours left, saying as they went “could it be possible that this man doesn’t understand that God has sent him a gift?”
A month later, the son of the farmer decided to break in the mare. But the animal leapt in an unexpected way and the young boy fell badly, breaking a leg.
The neighbours came back to the farmer’s house, taking gifts with them for the injured boy. The mayor of the village, solemnly, shared his condolences with the father, saying that everyone was really sad about what had happened.
The man thanked him for his visit and for everyone’s thoughtfulness. But he asked:
“How can you know that what has happened was a misfortune in my life? Bad luck, good luck, … who knows?
This sentence left everyone stunned, because nobody was in the slightest doubt that one’s son having an accident was a real tragedy. On leaving the farmer’s house, they said amongst themselves: “He really has gone mad, his only son could be crippled for life and he is still doubting if what has happened is a misfortune”
A few months passed and Japan declared war against China. The Emperor’s emissaries went all over the country looking for healthy men whom they would send to battle. On arriving at the village, they conscripted all the young men other than the farmer’s son whose leg was broken.
None of the men returned alive. The boy recovered, the two animals had young which were sold and gave a good profit. The farmer went to visit his friends to console and help them, as they had always stood by and supported him. Whenever one of them complained, the farmer said: “How do you know that this is a misfortune?” If any of them rejoiced, he asked: “How do you know that this is a blessing?”
Bad luck, good luck… who knows?
And the men of the village understood that, despite how things may appear, life has other meanings.