An election day parable: “You never know what’s for best or worst”

The farmer’s story

You’ve heard the story about the Zen farmer, haven’t you?

If not, mindfully pour yourself a cup of tea and settle in your comfy chair on this US election day, 2020. Something to perhaps momentarily take your mind off any stress or anxiety.

Once upon a time, a long long time ago (or maybe even today) a farmer worked his crops in his field. Day after day he toiled with his horse and plow turning up the good rich soil and planting millet or cabbage or carrots or maybe long slender daikon radish. My, he loved and appreciated that horse, his daily companion, the source of his humble income!

One day, perhaps a Tuesday, the horse disappeared. Ran away. Gone.

Can you imagine the horror? His very livelihood depended on his trusty brown-eyed loving horse companion.

Horse eye

His neighbors, feeling devastated for him, dropped by to commiserate.

“Oh, man,” they mourned, “we are so sorry! This is terrible news, just terrible. What will you do next? Why, you and your wife and children may even starve and die. Terrible news, just terrible! Such awful luck. Would you like to borrow our hoe and rake?”

The farmer, known far and wide for his spiritual wisdom, paused. The neighbors could see the sorrow and worry in his eyes. But he paused, looked up into the blue sky, sighed deeply and responded:

“You never know,” he said. “You never know what’s for the best or worst.”

The neighbors clucked and shook their heads–it was obviously the worst news ever, what was wrong with this guy? Just some too-spiritual mumbo-jumbo acceptance when obviously he should be crying his eyes out. They too sighed and headed home across the fields.


The next morning our farmer friend rolled out of bed before the rooster crowed. His sad-eyed wife served him a rich chicken broth with daikon radish and millet.

He walked to the barn. And there–over there, dear reader!–nickered his dear sweet horse–and he had brought home three wild horses!

The neighbors, being neighbors, heard immediately and sprinted across the fields to celebrate with our farmer.

“Oh, man, how wonderful!” the neighbors exclaimed. “This is fabulous, amazing, delightful! You will now be a very rich farmer with so many horses to help till your fields. How lucky you are!”

Our spiritual-leaning farmer leaned over to pet his Prodigal Son horse and looked his happy neighbors in the eyes. He smiled but said:

“You never know, my friends. You never know what’s for the best or worst.”

The neighbors rolled their eyes and walked back home. This guy: is he crazy or what? This is obviously the best news ever! He should be dancing a jig. What is wrong with him?

The farmer had a son with blue eyes. Everyone commented on his blue eyes. Where in the world did he get blue eyes? They looked at his brown-eyed parents and clucked their tongues, pondering all sorts of familial stories.

The blue-eyed son decided he would ride one of the wild horses. Of course he chose a stallion, the black one with rippling muscles and steel in his eyes.

As you can imagine, dear reader, the blue-eyed son rode the stallion for exactly three seconds before being rudely tossed on the ground next to the barn. He broke his leg in two places.

The neighbors arrived to offer sympathy about this great misfortune.

You know what our farmer said, don’t you? You’re getting the drift?

“You never know, my friends. You never know what’s for the best or worst.”

The next morning, while the young blue-eyed man moaned in pain in his attic bedroom, military officials appeared outside the farmer’s simple house.

“We are here to conscript all young men into the army!” the bossy macho commander shouted at the farmer.

“My son is upstairs,” the farmer replied, “but he has broken his leg yesterday and cannot walk.”

The commander sent a lackey to check, and sure enough, the blue-eyed son was passed by because of his broken leg.

The neighbors–oh those neighbors!–whose own precious son had been taken, appeared once again.

“You are so lucky!” exclaimed they, even with tears in their own eyes. “Who knew how lucky it would be to be thrown off a wild horse and break a leg yesterday?”

Our farmer, dear reader, paused and said–

“You never know, my friends. You never know what’s for best or worst.”

**I often think of this story when hearing of terrible or wonderful outcomes. We never truly know, do we? Something to ponder… **

** P.S. I kinda made up the details of the story. The “real” parable isn’t as exciting and probably wouldn’t hold your attention for as long on this Election Day in the US of A, 2020, when you may need some stories to keep your mind off things.

Day 17 of a seventy-five day journey to connect more deeply with God, Spirit, Holy, Love…to explore “What the Heart Knows” during the waning days of 2020.

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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40 Responses to An election day parable: “You never know what’s for best or worst”

  1. I love this story. Alan Watts always narrates it in my head. All the best for your elections. The world is watching.

  2. Ally Bean says:

    There’s an episode of Northern Exposure in which Ed refuses to take sides on some issue and always replies with “maybe.” I think of that character often as I hear more and more extreme points of view about our election. Similar idea to your story. You just never know for sure

    • Kathy says:

      I used to love Northern Exposure, back in the days when we had a TV! I just think of this story so often over the years when something happens that feels so awful (not usually when something happens that feels good, lol). It was fun to flesh out the parable this morning.

  3. Tilly travel says:

    I hadn’t heard the story but how true it is, it’s a little a long the lines of everything happens for a reason. We just don’t see it until later. I like the story, I may use it when I need to.

    Good health and bright blessing to you

  4. Larissa says:

    I love this story too. Thank you for telling it this morning!

  5. earthcomplex says:

    Thank you for sharing the simple parable of the farmer and his horse. Good imagination. You never know what’s best or worst. We just never know what will happen.

    • Kathy says:

      Earthcomplex, I did love hearing this parable years ago, and then enjoyed jazzing it up a bit this morning. We do never know what will happen, or what gifts/challenges will come with it.

  6. Susan D. Durham says:

    Ah, so beautiful and so wise. Love the story. Perfect for today!

    • Kathy says:

      Thanks, Susan! I love this story, too. Kinda puts things in a larger perspective than usual perspective. Hope you’re getting through the day OK!

  7. Sybil nunn says:

    There is no upside to THAT MAN winning the election! (You knew how I’d react of course)

    However, if he loses, oh gawd…when he loses, it’s gonna be a shit show.

    His evangelical, armed, minions will not accept his loss. He has damaged America badly.

    I’m sorry Kathy. I admire your positive attitude, but I’m glad you live in the woods.

    Sending virtual hugs

    • Kathy says:

      Sybil, Sybil, Sybil…. what positive attitude are you imagining me having? I am sitting around the house this afternoon feeling quite anxious about the outcome of the election. But am still remembering the story of the farmer and knowing that there are sometimes larger reasons than our human brains can fathom. That’s what I like about the story.

    • Shirley khodja says:

      I soooo agree!

  8. Debbie says:

    Great story, Kathy, one I hadn’t heard before! Yes, it’s true, too — whether something is deemed “good” or “bad” kind of depends on our outlook, doesn’t it? Thanks for leading the way and showing us how to make lemonade from lemons!

    • Kathy says:

      Debbie, I’m not sure how much I’m able to embrace this parable yet today–but am working on it. Or will try to remember in the upcoming days. i like stories about making lemonade from lemons, but it’s still hard sometimes to actually do it.

  9. Sarah Davis says:

    Thank you for the reminder.

  10. rehill56 says:

    Great story. Thanks for sharing.😊

  11. Shirley Khodja says:

    Yeah, well, frankly, I know. Not ambivalent about the results.

    • Kathy says:

      Shirley, I am wondering if this means your heart knows who will win? Or that your heart knows who you want to win? Many blessings to you this day… ❤

  12. Joanne says:

    I hadn’t heard the story, Kathy, and it seems to me that it can continue forever. So this infinite story is the story of life. The good, the bad and the ugly of it. Tides turn, seasons change, political leaders change (or stay), world trends change … nothing ever stays the same. So do we choose to find the good in every situation like the farmer? I try to, and I believe you are too. xx

    • Kathy says:

      Yep, Joanne, I do agree with you. This is a story that never ends. It’s almost a bit unsatisfying reading it because our human side wants it to end on the side of something being 100% positive, darn it! My natural bent seems to be to return to the positive again and again. But sometimes it takes awhile to find that equanimity and faith again.

  13. I wish I had read this yesterday. Thanks so much for the reminder — I love your version of the parable. 💙

  14. Robin says:

    Thank you for the reminder. I’m familiar with the story but had forgotten about it. It’s a good one to read right now.

    • Kathy says:

      That’s what I thought, Robin–even though we might want things to go our way–it’s good to remember it all in a larger perspective. (Not that I could hold on to the larger perspective yesterday.)

  15. sherrysescape says:

    I love your story!

  16. Stacy says:

    Marilyn Whirlwind told a similar legend on Northern Exposure back in the day. I loved that show and all it’s wisdom. I loved your version, too. XOXO

    • Kathy says:

      Someone else mentioned hearing about it on Northern Exposure. What a fun show that was! Glad you liked this version. Writing it was the best part of the day. Oh, and feeling the love from all you guys here too. ❤

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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