Coping: With Parables and Life Stories

A long time reader (of this and multiple sites) sent in a fine message that deserves wider audience than the small number who received it.  It’s one of those stories that gets to the heart of parables, stories passed on that speak of greater truths.

There was once an old Chinese farmer. One day the old farmers only horse ran away and now he would have no horse to use to haul in his crops. Upon hearing this the villagers came out to see him. They said to the old Chinese farmer, So sorry to hear about your misfortune with your horse running away. The old Chinese farmer replied, “how do you know this is misfortune? The villagers shook their heads and walked away.

7 days later, the old Chinese farmer’s horse returned and with it brought 10 wild horses. Now, pulling in the crops would be even easier and any such loss in the farm suffered would be nothing compared the compensation received from selling the horses the old farmer sold. Upon hearing this the villagers came out to the old farmers and said, “you were right! Your horse running away was not misfortune! Congratulations on your good fortune!!” The old Farmer looked at them and said, “How do you know this is good fortune??” The villagers all dropped their jaws and with blank stares on their faces shook their heads and walked back to the village.

2 weeks pass and the Old farmer goes to the village seeking the local doctor, his one only son was breaking one of the horses and fell off it and broke his leg in 3 places. Upon hearing this the villagers one by one said to the farmer, “Ohhhh you were right again! Who will help you tend to your fields, you have no other help and your son is hurt bad. This is indeed bad fortune!” The farmer shook his head and under his breath said, “how do you know this is bad fortune?!!!”

2 months later the Mongol hoards came in to the region and started sacking every village. The regional Chinese war chief started going to each and every village and taking every able bodied man off to war. When the war chief met with the old Chinese farmer, he saw his son couldn’t even stand let alone fight. The war chief said,  nooo not him he can stay back with the old men, women and children because he is of no value to us.  All the other villagers men went off to war. The women of the village turned to the old Chinese farmer and said with sad faces, you were right again,  your son getting hurt was  good fortune.  Now all our husband’s and sons will die in battle.

The old Chinese farmer stared at the ground and remained silent.. When the war chief and all the men from the village were gone out of site never to return.  He looked at the women of the village and said, indeed this is Good Fortune. Present your daughters to my son, that the village may not die and he will give you children to carry on your families lineage.

Sometimes you have to loose, to win. Just like in game of Chess. The fastest way to win against any opponent in chess in one move without ever touching a piece is to simply walk away from the board. :)

There are many other such stories, covering the gamut from moral decisions, to acting to remain on “right path.”  They work well with kids and don’t have to be religion-specific, something that just doesn’t play with curriculum-designers, ever-wary of the Political Correctness Monster.

Yet parable are about teaching values, about how people work.  And without some knowledge of how people work, is there any point?  None of us is an island.

Parables and take small, compact but important ideas, give them some clothing, lots of “memory hooks” and make them foundations upon which a lifetime of solid values may be built.  They don’t have to sell a religion, although most seem to.

One of my favorites was about how we all carry around the burdens.  The story goes something like this…

An old monk and young adept were walking through China.  They had taken a vow of celibacy  and the your adept was asking his Master many questions about how hard it is to tame the inner spirits.

Walking a good part of the morning, they came to a river.  It was a deep and fast river and only a strong, tall man could cross it.  Smaller, shorter people would be swept away by the current.

At the riverside was a young woman who was strikingly beautiful.  She wanted to cross, but being only a bit over 4’11” tall, there was no way she could walk across.

“Young woman, hop on my shoulders and I will carry you across,” which he promptly did.

The young adept was appalled.  This was such a gorgeous woman…clearly the Master was lying about denying the pleasures of the flesh to remain on the even path and taming inner spirits.

As soon, as they crossed, the beautiful woman jumped down, thanked the Master for his service, gave him a coin, and continued on her way.

The Master and the adept continued walking.

After some hours, the young adept could stand it no longer.

“Master, you describe denying the pleasures of flesh, yet when you came to that beautiful woman you didn’t hesitate throwing her on your shoulders and giving her a ride across.  I must ask you Master, was she wearying any underwear? “

“No, she was not.”

“Ah ha!  Master, how can you ask me to deny myself the pleasures of life in pursuit of spiritual truth?  When you, yourself, carried a beautiful woman wearing no underwear?”

“It is because I put her down at the river’s edge 7 miles back.  You did not.”

Parables come from many cultures.  They contain many truths.  And even if one doesn’t particularly care for religion in the organized sense, there’s much to be learned about how the world, its people, and how the Bigger Picture works.

People who deny the existence of religions, don’t seem to have much problem with parables handed down from over the ages, so long as they’re not marketing one particular religion.

It’s something I find endlessly amusing:  Atheists who admit to fundament human truths, yet admit they these exist.  Mountain viewed, not named.

Like the seer who wrote extensively of his own failure, yet couldn’t apply the lesson to himself, due to the doors of ego, so too, people without religion quite secretly believe in an immortal  Highest Power or Most Profound Truth, nevertheless:


I suppose that’s OK, too.  Religions are interesting things. 

When I was young, still riding my old shaft-driven Virago 650 motorcycle, I decided one day to consider Mount Rainier up in Washington State, an analogy of God or Ultimate Truth. 

So I picked out a number of major viewpoints on all different sides of the mountain and spent an entire summer day riding around the mountain.  Ride, spend 15-minutes at each viewpoint, then ride some more.  Figured I’d pretend the viewpoints represented the major religions, each seeking after Truth of the Mountain.

At each of the viewpoints, the Mountain was exactly the same as before; geologically.  But it looked different.  At the various stops, the Mountain seemed to have a different sense, revealing in ever-changing light, some new aspect of its personality. 

And yet, logic insisted that it wasn’t the Mountain that was different in any way, however minute; It was my own perspective on it that was changing.  

So, I concluded, there’s this one Big Reality, but like Mount Rainier, unlimited viewing opportunities, depending on season, weather, day, lighting and even the mood of the viewer.  Still the same Mountain. 

Google Images offers a fine selection of views over here.

Occasionally, a reader will chastise me for seeming inconsistent in my views.  But when I get those kinds of emails I think back to my mountain-circling Virago adventure-ride.

The simple explanation for any seeming inconsistencies is because sometimes we look at the Mountain from the perspective at Ohanapecosh, while other times we look at the Mountain from overlooking the Lodge at Sunrise. Or maybe it’s the view from Longmire.

We always write of the same Mountain; it just may, or may not, seem inconsistent, depending on how much riding you’ve done. How many views considered.  It’s a different moment on the Enumclaw side, instead of cresting the summit and beholding it on ride back from Yakima.

And the point of this missive?

February is not too early to be motorcycle shopping, Pusan.

The more you ride, the better you’ll see.   The more you see, the better you’ll feel. The more you feel, the better you’ll think.  The more you think, the more you’ll wonder.  The more you wonder, the more you’ll ride. . [repeat]

We really ought to rename Earth sometime more befitting…like an amusement park:  190 Flags over Rock.  Or Disney Planet. There’s 7-billion people on the same ride…that’s some kind of park operation, ain’t it?

All riding around the Mountain; no agreement on view.

More Thursday…Peoplenomics tomorrow is for subscribers only.  You can be one, too — details are here.  I haven’t decided on tomorrow’s ride, yet.  Clarity will come with sunrise. or at Sunrise.

Write when you break-even.


7 thoughts on “Coping: With Parables and Life Stories”

  1. Your motorcycle story reminded me of this poem:

    The Blind Men and the Elephant
    John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

    It was six men of Indostan
    To learning much inclined,
    Who went to see the Elephant
    (Though all of them were blind),
    That each by observation
    Might satisfy his mind.

    The First approached the Elephant,
    And happening to fall
    Against his broad and sturdy side,
    At once began to bawl:
    “God bless me! but the Elephant
    Is very like a WALL!”
    The Second, feeling of the tusk,
    Cried, “Ho, what have we here,
    So very round and smooth and sharp?
    To me ’tis mighty clear
    This wonder of an Elephant
    Is very like a SPEAR!”

    The Third approached the animal,
    And happening to take
    The squirming trunk within his hands,
    Thus boldly up and spake:
    “I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
    Is very like a SNAKE!”

    The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
    And felt about the knee
    “What most this wondrous beast is like
    Is mighty plain,” quoth he:
    “‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
    Is very like a TREE!”

    The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
    Said: “E’en the blindest man
    Can tell what this resembles most;
    Deny the fact who can,
    This marvel of an Elephant
    Is very like a FAN!”

    The Sixth no sooner had begun
    About the beast to grope,
    Than seizing on the swinging tail
    That fell within his scope,
    “I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
    Is very like a ROPE!”

    And so these men of Indostan
    Disputed loud and long,
    Each in his own opinion
    Exceeding stiff and strong,
    Though each was partly in the right,
    And all were in the wrong!

  2. George,

    FYI. Your website is a little wonky today. Tried it with Chrome, Safari and Opera. Initially did not have graphics, but now is shifting everything to the left with the right sidebar now at the bottom.

    Still readable, but, as I say, wonky.

    Tony Cogliandro

    • Thanks for the heads-up. Software conflict. Easier to resolve than human conflict.
      Although human conflict can have an exercise angle that’s good cardio.
      Software is usually just bullshit and blood pressure…

  3. Spaceship Earth wasn’t good enough? I suppose it can be called The Earth Ride. When my daughter was born I said to her, “Welcome to the Earth ride.”
    So I guess now is as good a time as any to tell you my idea to make this ride more fun: Crew for Spaceship Earth. As a youth I was a Boy Scout; I bought into it completely. I still try to be prepared. But now we have less need for scouts and more need for crew. Scouting has a lot of issues today, gender, religion, sexual orientation… These aren’t issues for Crew. Crew just wants to make the ride more fun for EVERYONE. More diversity means more interesting things to do – more fun. Crew obviously has maintenance functions too. I think the idea corresponds to just what the world’s youth needs to be concerned with. But it is just as important to know that there is NO CAPTAIN because we aren’t going somewhere in particular; it is about the journey. No hierarchy just crew, self-organizing on local projects. No rank – just time in service. I suppose local groups could assign TEMPORARY leadership roles to individuals to help coordinate larger projects but no world wide council, no officers, no copyright, no trademark, no business model just trustworthy, friendly, helpful, cheerful, thrifty, courteous, kind, brave, clean[ish] and reverent persons who are sometimes on duty and sometimes off.

  4. George, your Copeland article on parables is fantastic. But wait, maybe tomorrow I’ll have a different viewpoint on it, although that could change again on the 3rd day. And then more observations on the 4th.

  5. I like that picture of the mountain in the background it reminded me of the religionjourney everyone is trying to achieve -the parable to get to the top of the mountain while one will make his or her start ,over on this side of the mountain and tell everyone she or he has found the path and then others have found paths that lead to the same top but each insist that theirs is the path to be taken, but in the end we all have the same goal but each are taking different routes that evenually lead them to the top of their spiritual goals

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