Sunday, September 12, 2010

Turns of Fortune

There is an old Chinese story about the turnings of fortune. A farmer who lived on the edge of a great wild plain kept horses. One day the pasture fence broke, and two of his horses escaped. The neighbors lamented on behalf of the farmer, "How unfortunate." The farmer simply said, "We'll see."

The next day the farmer's horses came back, with three wild horses from the plain at their heels. The neighbors congratulated the man's fortune, "How lucky!" Again the farmer said, "We'll see."

The following day the farmer's son was trying to tame one of the wild horses. The horse bucked and threw him off, breaking his leg. The neighbors again lamented, "How unfortunate." The farmer said, "We'll see."

The day after that the army came through, conscripting soldiers. The neighbors' sons were taken, but because of his broken leg, the farmer's son was left behind. The neighbors wailed "How lucky you are!", and again the farmer said, "We'll see."

In life, turnings of fate take place regularly, sometimes in subtle and sometimes in obvious ways. In my life recently, I met a girl I thought was a perfect match, and experienced a nearly ideal beginning to what it seemed would be a nearly ideal relationship. Lucky? We'll see.

I expected this to go on indefinitely until she suddenly broke it off after only three months. While I was struggling with my own shock and heartbreak, I missed many opportunities to flirt with other girls. Unlucky? We'll see.

One of these opportunities I botched particularly badly. I was so wrapped up in my head that I almost didn't realize the cashier was flirting with me when I was purchasing my textbook, and I missed the opportunity to make a connection. Two weeks later, I saw her approaching on the sidewalk, and without a word she walked right into my arms. She nuzzled me and kissed my neck. Late for my teaching assignment, I gave her my card, saying, "I have to go, but will you call me?" She said yes and kissed me on the corner of the mouth. We parted longingly, pulling our eyes and hands apart. Lucky? We'll see.

Absorb the teaching of the masters: when ahead, do not rejoice too much, when behind, do not despair at all.