Cut yourself loose

Recently I was involved in an argument with a person who had been bad mouthing me and was saying even worse things to me on my face.  I knew I wasn’t going to win this- the person was adamant that I had been disrespectful to them.  I did not say what I knew, just shrugged my shoulders and walked away.  This person followed me, astounded that I did not want to argue my case or even protest. I just said, ‘If that is what you want to believe about me, that is fine.  I will simply walk out of the door into the sunshine and forget this conversation happened.’  So I did. I had a lovely walk in a park and reflected on my situation.  And I realised that by coming out of this argument, I had actually been respectful to myself and even better, had now time to pursue more constructive and creative relationships.  It was as if a balloon had been cut loose and was now drifting in the blue sky- I felt so happy and light.  Sometimes we do not realise what life gives, what gifts we receive.  Instead we hanker after what was and try to keep in relationships that have no meaning, friendships that are toxic and harmful.  Cut yourself loose and find that creativity, joy and connectivity- there will be other balloons loose too that you will see when you find yourself in that blue sky!  There is nothing good or bad, only the value you make out of the situation.  It reminded me of this Chinese story that I had heard Mark Tully, former BBC correspondent use in his book, although it is attributed to Anthony de Mello here.

There once was a simple farmer who lived and struggled alongside his neighbours and friends, trying to exist and fulfil a peaceful life. One day news arrived from far away, that his old loving father had died. His neighbours gathered to grieve, but the farmer simply said, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

In time relatives brought a very fine horse of great cost and fine breeding, left to the farmer by his father. All the villagers and neighbours gathered in delight with him to celebrate his good fortune, but he just said, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

One day the horse escaped into the hills and when all the farmer’s neighbours sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

A week later the horse returned with a herd of wild horses from the hills and this time the neighbours congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”

Then, when the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

Some weeks later the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg they let him off. Now was that good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?

An ancient Chinese story as told by Anthony de Mello in The Song of the Bird


Good luck, bad luck, who knows?

I read this parable a long time ago in a book edited by Mark Tully.  The name of the book escapes me but I remember the parable so well.  In that book, it was attributed to a Chinese man but on the Internet, I have seen it attributed to Jewish, African, Indian and other cultures- perhaps it is universal.  It goes like this-

There once lived a farmer who owned a horse.  He had a son. One day, the farmer’s horse ran away. The neighbours came to console him on his bad luck. But the farmer said, “Good luck, bad luck- who knows?”

After a few days, the farmer’s horse came back with other wild horses. Now, the neighbours were slightly jealous and said, “You are so lucky- this is such a good thing!” But the farmer said again,”Good luck, bad luck- who knows?”

The next day, the farmer’s son fell off while trying to tame one of the new horses and broke his leg. The neighbours came over to commiserate, “Your only son has broken his leg.  Now you don’t have anyone to help you- what bad luck!”  The farmer said again,”Good luck, bad luck- who knows?”

Soon came the news that a war had broken out and all young men needed to be conscripted into the army. However due to his broken leg, the farmer’s son could not be drafted.  His neighbours remarked enviously, “How lucky! Your son won’t get killed or maimed in battle.”

As usual, the farmer replied, “Good luck, bad luck- who knows?”

Who knows what happened to the farmer or his son after that.  But what is clear is that the farmer had great wisdom and did not get carried away by immediate things.  This parable shows that life, luck and things happen to everyone and everything has its positive and negative.  Sometimes our short sightedness does not allow us to judge the long term effects.

John F Kennedy said in 1959 that the Chinese word for ‘crisis’ has two characters- one for danger and one for opportunity.


Although some experts believe that the second character means ‘crucial point’, I like that even better- the idea that danger brings one to a ‘crucial point’ in life- one where choices are very important if you want to keep following your heart. That crucial point is when you view everything as a positive.

And sometimes we can turn anything that happens to us into a good thing over time!