“You never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune; or, you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.”Alan Watts
Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, all of his neighbours came around to commiserate. They said, “We are so sorry to hear your horse has run away. This is most unfortunate.” The farmer said, “Maybe.”
The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it, and in the evening everybody came back and said, “Oh, isn’t that lucky. What a great turn of events. You now have eight horses!” The farmer again said, “Maybe.”
The following day his son tried to break one of the wild horses, and while riding it, he was thrown and broke his leg. The neighbors then said, “Oh dear, that’s too bad,” and the farmer responded, “Maybe.”
The next day the conscription officers came around to conscript people into the army, and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Again all the neighbors came around and said, “Isn’t that great!” Again, he said, “Maybe.”
The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad — because you never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune; or, you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.
I share the story of the Chinese farmer because of the current pandemic we are experiencing. The story reveals how we never know what will be the consequence of misfortune; or of good fortune. Sometimes the things we really wish to happen could be the very things that ruin us. Sometimes the door that does not open for us is not our door.
When I was a child, if I saw a fly caught in a spider web I would release it, when I saw ivy on a tree I would pull it off. One day my father asked me what I was doing as I angrily smashed the fungi growing from the trunk of a tree. When I told him, he explained that sometimes a plant and fungi have a cooperative relationship. The plant produces sugars and supplies them to the fungus, and in return the fungus supplies water and mineral nutrients, such as phosphorus, taken from the soil. It was only in recent years; I realised I still try to control things.
I have lost a family member during this Covid pandemic, so I do not take it likely. However, in the bigger scheme of life, this pandemic may be the very setback we needed to recalibrate, reassess and reinvent. We learn best through experience and struggle as the following story illustrates.
Freedom and flight
“Sometimes, struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If we were to go through our life without any obstacles, we would be crippled. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. Give every opportunity a chance, leave no room for regrets.”Friedrich Nietzsche
A man found a cocoon of an Emperor moth. He took it home so he could watch the moth break out of the cocoon. Soon afterwards, a small opening appeared in the cocoon. The man sat and watched for hours as the moth struggled to force through that little hole. The man grew impatient. The moth appeared to have stopped making progress. In his kindness, the man took a pair of scissors and carefully snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The moth then emerged easily.
The moth had a scrawny body with wrinkled and shrivelled wings. The man waited for the moth’s wings to enlarge and take flight. Neither happened. Instead, the little moth spent the rest of its brief life crawling around with a scrawny body and shrivelled wings. It never took flight.
The moth needed the struggle. When a moth squeezes through the tiny opening in the cocoon; the body pumps fluid into its wings. This is like air being pumped into a tyre tube. The moth needs to go through this painful process to thrive. Being deprived of the struggle deprived the moth of flight.
I share this story to illustrate that both freedom and flight often only come after the struggle. The struggle provides the learning opportunity, and when we seize the opportunity, it offers growth.
Post Traumatic Growth
“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” –Walt Disney
Post-traumatic growth (PTG) is the positive psychological change experienced after overcoming a painful challenge. Conquering hard challenges results in the growth of new mental pathways. New mental pathways result in new thinking, and new thinking results in new realities This pandemic has changed the course of our lives on this planet, maybe for the better.
The crisis has:
Brought many of us closer together.
Pushed some of us further apart.
Given us time to think.
Reimagined the workplace.
Cut carbon emissions.
Given the Earth a chance to breathe.
Taken some lives due to the pandemic.
Spared some lives because fewer people were on the roads.
And is any of this good?
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