The Taoist Farmer



Recently a friend mentioned to me “The Story of the Taoist Farmer.”  When I told her I wasn’t sure I had ever heard this centuries-old story, my friend was incredulous. She looked at me as if to say, “How could that be?  What bushel basket have I been hiding under?” After hearing this story, I had to share it here with all of you, and I would love to hear your impressions.

The Story of the Taoist Farmer

This farmer had only one horse, and one day the horse ran away. The neighbors came to console him over his terrible loss.

The farmer said, “What makes you think it is so terrible?”

A month later, the horse came home – this time bringing with her two beautiful wild horses. The neighbors became excited at the farmer’s good fortune. Such lovely strong horses!

The farmer said, “What makes you think this is good fortune?”

The farmer’s son was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke his leg. All the neighbors were very distressed. Such bad luck!

The farmer said, “What makes you think it is bad?”

A war came, and every able-bodied man was conscripted and sent into battle. Only the farmer’s son, because he had a broken leg, remained. The neighbors congratulated the farmer.

“What makes you think this is good?” said the farmer.

The End.


It’s an interesting story, isn’t it? When you read it and mull it over, what do you think is its point?

My interpretation and take-away is that I have been blessed beyond measure with my family, friends and ministry. AND, I also feel like I have been brought to my knees with the death of two brothers, my father’s death, and the loss of my health insurance and retirement fund when I left the Catholic Church. For as many good times as I have had there have been as many difficult times, and God is present through them all. The Taoist farmer is a reminder that during rough times I should remember that blessed times will return – and to remember during blessed times that another challenge will surely present itself. The story reinforces that I should be prepared to keep all things in perspective … that together with God, there’s nothing we can’t handle together.

My friend’s interpretation was more brief.  Her take was, “We don’t know s###.”

I’d love to hear your interpretation too.

Peace friends,


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  • Chuck says:

    Thank you all for your comments!
    A friend sent me this beautiful quote today after reading this story ….
    “I offer what has surprised me in my pain: that life is not fair, but unending in its capacity to change us; that compassion is fair and feeling is just; and that we are not responsible for all that befalls us, only for how we receive it and for how we hold each other up along the way.”
    from Mark Nepo’s, The Book of Awakening, pg 154, May 8th

  • Beth Dennis says:

    We don’t know sh#%…
    My husband was an alcoholic who got sick and died quickly. That was misfortune. But, my small children could have gone through decades of suffering had he continued to live with his addiction. Grief was also salvation. So many bad things have happened to me. It seems like the sun won’t stay out. But I have learned to wait, smile, love, and laugh…

  • Sean says:

    My Mom, during tough times, used to say: “This too shall pass”
    During good times she would also reminds us that “This too shall
    Pass”. Sounds Taoist to me and she didn’t even know it!

  • Katie B says:

    1) God sees the big picture, we see the moment. 2) Judgements are unnecessary and subjective. Just deal with what is, you don’t have to label everything good or bad or anything else.

  • Rose says:

    Amen on this story; love your friend’s forthright response….we never know what will come into our lives; we don’t know if it will be good or bad or when it might be good or bad. We just have to roll with the punches!

  • Marianne says:

    This story immediately reminded me of the old Yiddish folktale “It Could Always Be Worse” 🙂 Best we count our blessings, rather than complain about our misfortunes. Thanks, Chuck.

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