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The farmer who was certain about uncertainty

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

Of late, in a discussion about society and ethics with colleagues, I was reminded of a Taoist fable about a farmer whose stance towards fortunes and misfortunes was one that was grounded in uncertainty.

Grounded in uncertainty sounds almost like a paradox. Is that even possible?

Allow me to share the fable:

Once upon a time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the farmer.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

- excerpt taken from

The farmer's stoic attitude towards the ups and downs of life and his capacity to remain firmly grounded in the 'maybe' is quite the inspiration in times of chaos, upheavals, and even in peace. As we continue to rejoice, to grieve, and to feel all of our feelings, may we also hold the 'maybe' somewhere in our hearts and minds.

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