The Story of Luck

Long ago, in China, there was a wise old man who owned a small farm with only a single horse. One day, the horse ran away.

“What bad luck!” the neighbors said, “This is such bad news. You must be so upset!” The old man stayed silent and refused to judge the situation based on his first impressions.

Later on that week, the original horse returned, along with a herd of other wild horses. The old man and his son closed the gate to keep all the horses on the farm.

“What good luck!” the neighbors said, “This is such good news! You must be so pleased!” The old man stayed silent and refused to judge the situation based on his first impressions.

A few days later, the old man’s son was training the new horses when an accident broke the son’s legs.

“What bad luck!” the neighbors said, “This is such horrible news. You must be so frustrated!” The old man stayed silent and refused to judge the situation based on his first impressions.

Later that year, a war started in the region and every able-bodied man was drafted. Every young man ended up being killed except for the farmer’s son, who avoided the war due to his injured legs.

“What good luck!” the neighbors said, “Only your son avoided the war! You must be so happy!” The old man stayed silent and refused to judge the situation based on his first impressions. 


The moral of the story is that seemingly bad events can later turn out to produce good consequences. Alternatively, seemingly good events can later turn out to produce unexpected negative consequences. The wise person withholds judgement regarding an event being good or bad and simply accepts it. 



[139 BCE, Liu An, Original Title: When the old man from the frontier lost his horse, how could one have known that it would be fortuitous?]

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