The Fable of the Wise Farmer

My two friends and I have created this system where when any one of us feels overwhelmed with something going on in our lives, or just has something a little more repetitively in her thoughts than other things, we open up to the other two about it and have a sort of “venting session“.

It’s interesting, really. Because we so very rarely give each other actual directed advice as to what we think the other should do about the given predicaments we find ourselves in. Instead, we just all immerse ourselves in the given thought/idea and have an enlightened conversation about it.

And sometimes that’s all you need. To get a thought bouncing around in your head out in the open to help put it to rest and yourself at ease. But, sometimes, certain topics and situations may require a little extra effort and talking and thinking about.

Recently, there has been a lot on our one friend’s mind. It is something that she has been constantly teeter-tottering with… trying to understand the ins-and-outs of, and looking for the appropriate way to handle. One day she may have the attitude of, “whatever happens, happens. I’m just going to enjoy the ride while I’m on it“, but the very next day her attitude may be, “I just don’t know what to do, I feel as if I just got hit with a ton of bricks“. Recently, she’s been getting really upset with herself for getting so upset… it’s like an endless cycle of negative emotion.

Of course, it’s perfectly normally to be affected by things, because that’s part of life… it may actually be a little more worrisome and alarming if we were to just go through life deflecting all of our emotions! But, I think it’s also important to try and take some of the pressure off of ourselves; to try and reduce our tendencies to want to figure out, and manipulate a situation that is honestly just beyond our control.

I know there are plenty of times when I’ve been there, and I’m sure, you have, too. 

Which is why I wanted to share this story and a very-closely related blog that I recently found on about how to deal with life when things just don’t work out the way you were expecting, or at the very least wanting them to.


Here is a small excerpt from Elloa Atkinson’s article, “When Things Don’t Work Out: Who Knows If It’s Good or Bad

I remembered the fable of the wise farmer. Here is my own version of it:

There was once a wise farmer, who, with his wife, had a small piece of land and one horse. One day, the horse managed to jump the fence and ran away to freedom.

The farmer’s nosy neighbor sidled up to the fence, leaned on it conspiratorially, tutting and shaking his head. “You had just one horse,” said the neighbor, “and now he’s gone. Such bad luck!”

The wise farmer nodded slowly, taking in his neighbor’s words. “Well, who knows if it’s good or bad?”

The next day, the wise farmer’s horse miraculously reappeared, except that he wasn’t alone: in tow was a second, wild horse.

The neighbor hurried over excitedly, jabbering away. “You had one horse, then you lost it, and now you have two! This is such good luck!”

The farmer smiled sagely before replying, “Who knows if it’s good or bad?”

The following day, the farmer’s only son took on the job of breaking in the wild horse. The horse bucked, throwing the son to the ground. His leg was well and truly broken.

“Tut, tut, tut,” the neighbor muttered in dismay, “What a week! You lose a horse, get it back, gain an extra horse and now your only son, your only help on the farm, is injured! This is such terrible, terrible luck.”

Once again the wise farmer shrugged his shoulders, utterly non-committal. “Who knows if it’s good or bad?”

A week later, the army marched through town, conscripting all and any young men for military duty. The farmer’s son, in a cast and on crutches, was not required to go to war. The neighbor exhaled in relief upon hearing the news. “Oh, what good luck for you and your family! Your son doesn’t have to go to war! Such good luck.”

Of course, the farmer responded in only the way he could…

“Who knows if it’s good or bad?”

I’m not about to suggest that when we see injustice, abuse, or evil in the world, we pretend that it doesn’t matter, or use the “Who knows if it’s good or bad?” line as an excuse for apathy. That would be a gross misinterpretation of the message of this story, which is really, in its essence, a teaching about curiosity and remembering that in the grand scheme of things, we really don’t know what anything truly means.

The wise farmer in the fable may have had emotions and stories running in his head in response to each unfolding event (although he does appear to be very close to enlightenment if you ask me!), but he kept a truly open mind and consistently responded with curiosity, reminding himself and his drama-addicted neighbor that nobody truly knows what anything actually “means.”

Since there is never really a finishing line (even death doesn’t necessarily stop the ripple effects), we can’t really declare that something was definitely good or bad. It is always unfolding.

If you like what you’ve read so far, please click here for Elloa’s full article. Her words are something a lot of us can resonate with, and maybe even remind us about a thing or two we already know, but sometimes forget to implement.


-Virginia Johnson


Are you struggling with enjoying the present, accepting that some things are behind your control or would like some guidance with a more positive outlook, or are you just interested in talking to someone about things going on in your life because you simply feel that you do not as you should? Sometimes having a partner in your journey can help. Give us a call  to set up a free phone consultation at Life Skills Resource Group Orlando at 407-355-7378, and one of our Orlando Individual Counselors, Orlando Life Coaches, Orlando Teen Counselors, and Orlando Child counselors would be more than happy to help you, a family member, or a friend work on changing your life.