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!