You’ve probably heard the idea that everything happens for a reason. Pedantically we could say it does. The window broke because the ball hit it, and the ball hit the window because someone kicked it. The statement is not meant this way, though. It is a comforting statement that things will get better during bad times. We could argue that this is a trick we play on ourselves and what would be better would be to say, “Maybe.”
The Chinese Farmer
There is a famous story of a Chinese farmer that is used to illustrate the power of maybe.
There once was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
A few days later the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbours exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the farmer.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
“Maybe,” answered the farmer.
A week later, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.
Take a moment and think about the story.
One of the tenants of mindfulness is that we are aware of the moment and treat it non-judgementally. We will not ask the moment to be different. The story fits pretty well with that idea.
As we can see, everything in the story changes. We see events we may identify as bad luck turning into events that can be seen as good luck. These events can also go the other way.
We can, therefore, not judge one moment at a time. We need to remove ourselves and our feelings from the moment.
We should aim to be more like this Taoist farmer and not divide life into arbitrary good and bad events. It is all life. We should experience life as one thing and not split it up.
In short, we need to be more open minded.
The BMX connection
A few weeks ago, I was riding a little skatepark, and I decided I wanted to ride some rails for the first time in years. I started on the flat ledges to warm up and then moved to the bigger down ledges.
I took my time and didn’t put any pressure on myself. In fact, I had just switched from metal pegs to plastic pegs. Allowing myself to notice the different feel as I was grinding. I probably mean slide here.
It was time to 50/50 the rail. I landed it a few times and then decided to bring an old staple back. The crooked grind. I picked up my bike and ran it down the rail how I wanted to land. Now,I made sure it would grind down okay and not hang up.
I took my bike back to where I would start my run-up. My mind began to go through a list of thoughts. They came flowing through my mind. Eventually came the dark thoughts of slamming. I noticed them and internally replied, “Maybe, but I’m going to be fine.”
My back peg caught on the underside of the rail. After my impromptu flying lesson, I got up, dusted myself, and picked my bike up. I went back to the run-up and pedalled at the rail.
I changed my line slightly, a little more than a centimetre or two to the left so my peg would clear. The thoughts flowed back down my consciousness. I accepted them and hit the rail again.
I had hopped my front wheel over and was riding on my opposite front peg, and my back rear peg had settled on top the rail. Most importantly, I slid the rail this time.
Take a moment
Afterwards, I had to steady myself as the adrenaline rushed through my body. I could feel my body tingle. I allowed all my thoughts to flow through my head. Then, these thoughts were chased by the wave of pain from the previous slam.
Afterwards, “Maybe,” was all I could say to my mind chopping between positive thoughts and negative thoughts. It was not two separate moments that needed labels. It was just part of the fabric of my life.