In Old Frontiersman’s Lost Horse, We Find Encouragement – Pub’d on China Daily

China Daily just published my most recent column In old frontiersman’s lost horse, we find encouragement. Here is an excerpt:

Long before I ever uttered my first word in Mandarin Chinese, I encountered a story that has helped me redefine how I approach the good and the bad in life-the tale of the old frontiersman’s lost horse, or sai weng shi ma.

According to the tale, an old man living near the border happened to lose his horse when it ran away. People came to comfort him, but he responded by saying, “Why couldn’t this be something fortunate?” After a few months, the horse returned to the old man, bringing along with it a number of fine steeds from the frontier. People came to offer congratulations, but the old man said, “Why couldn’t this be a calamity?” The old man now had many horses at his home, and his son loved to ride. But one day, while on horseback, the son fell off and broke his leg. People came to console the old man, who instead told them, “Why couldn’t this be a good thing?” A year later, barbarians carried out a large-scale invasion on the frontier, and every able-bodied young man took up arms to go to war. The vast majority of the people living at the frontier died. But the son was saved from going to battle because of his lame leg, allowing him and his father to survive in safety.

Ever since I’ve first read this story as a high school student, I’ve returned to it again and again whenever the world yields more sorrows than sweetness. The idea that, perhaps, things that seemed bad might actually prove to have a silver lining, one we might not discern at first, has provided a certain reassurance I depend on amid the vicissitudes of life. And indeed, sometimes what seems apparently unfortunate can still yield blessings after all.

Read the full column here, and if you like it, share it!

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5 Replies to “In Old Frontiersman’s Lost Horse, We Find Encouragement – Pub’d on China Daily”

  1. Oh god, my best friend (one I went to junior nature camp with) has used this phrase for years as an excuse for a horrible relationship choice. My wife and I just laugh every time we hear him say it 😛

    That said, please teleport us to Beijing. I think it is more stable than the U.S…

  2. I’d rather go off to the war and I wouldn’t really give a sh*t if I died, as long as I took a bunch of the invading barbarians with me into the eternal darkness. We are all gonna die one day. What matters to me is how I die. As a coward, or as a warrior? I prefer the latter and I will do my damndest to do so. That’s just me though. Y’all hanging in there in these interesting times?

  3. RE: Ryan: Don’t flee danger. Hold the line and let the more vulnerable people who you care about see that you are a tough man, and a hard man, a rock that they can look to for support in the wind. Show no emotion or any other signs of weakness. Only be satisfied with results and solutions. If you do not own or have access to a firearm and ammunition now, you better obtain one. A basic AR-15 semiautomatic carbine will be an awesome home/vehicle defense platform, and a Glock 21 (.45 ACP) as the backup. I recommend a Glock 19 in 9x19mm as they are even more easier to find ammunition for in case of a widespread emergency. Make sure you have at least 1 month of nonperishable nutrients stockpiled. Wear a face mask. “Life is hard. It is harder if you are stupid”.- John Wayne…

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