Maybe So, Maybe No

There is a Chinese proverb that provides a great example of equanimity in practice.

Once there was a Chinese farmer who had a stallion that helped him work his poor farm. One day the horse ran away and his neighbor exclaimed, “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!” but the farmer replied “Maybe so, Maybe no. We will see.”

The next morning the horse returned, followed by a herd of wild mares. Now the neighbor exclamied “You now not only have your stallion back, but a group of mares as well. What great luck for you!” But the farmer calmly replied, "Maybe so, Maybe no. We will see.”

While trying to tame one of the wild horses, the farmer’s son was thrown and broke his leg. He could no longer help with the farm chores. “How terrible for you.” the neighbor said. “Maybe so, Maybe no. We will see.” said the farmer.

A few weeks later the army marched through town, conscripting all the able-bodied young men into the army to fight against an invading horde. Many would die. But they did not take the farmer’s son, who was still recovering from his injury. Neighbors said to the farmer, “How fortunate that your son was spared.” but the farmer just calmly replied, “Maybe so, Maybe no. We will see.”

This story shows how no event can truly be judged as good or bad without knowing the whole story and allowing for the test of time. Does anyone really even live long enough or have enough perspective to make a truthful judgment? Would we not be better served by trying to maintain equanimity – keeping a balanced and “wait and see” perspective as much as possible.