A Happiness Journey

Universal Law of Relativity

There is an age-old Chinese parable about a farmer and his fate. It goes something like this:


There once lived an old farmer who had diligently tended to his crops for many years. He relied on his trusty, hard-working horse to plough the fields and his fit strong son to work by his side. But one day, the horse broke through the fence and ran away. Upon hearing this news, the farmer’s neighbours rushed over to the farmer to voice their concern. “What bad luck this is,” they said, “You will not have your horse during the critical planting season.” The farmer listened intently, nodding his head as if in agreement, smiling slightly. Then he spoke softly, “Bad luck, good luck — who really knows?”

A few days later the horse, accompanied by two wild horses, returned to the farmer’s stable. The farmer immediately realized that he could train these two new horses to help him plough his field more efficiently. Soon after, the neighbours heard about this and visited the farmer. “You are now blessed with three strong horses,” they said in unison, “What great luck this is!” But the laconic farmer simply replied, “Good luck, bad luck — who really knows?”

The farmer gave one of the untamed horses to his son. While riding the horse, the son was thrown off and broke his leg. The farmer’s neighbours came around again and expressed their worry, “It is a shame that your son will not be able to help you during planting season. This is such bad luck!” The farmer smiled faintly, and said “Bad luck, good luck — who really knows?”

A few days later, the Chinese emperor’s army rode ominously into town under grey clouds. The general’s order was to draft the eldest son from every family into the army. One of the soldiers took one look at the farmer’s son’s broken leg and motioned to have him left behind. The army marched out of town while tearful residents waved goodbye to their sons, knowing that they may not see them again. Later in the day, the neighbours gathered at the farmer’s house. “You are the only family that did not have their son drafted into the army,” they said. “This is such good luck!” The farmer, who was busy with his chores, looked up and said, “Good luck, bad luck — who really knows?”

I love this story because it beautifully highlights something I’ve been talking about at length in my blogs, that of perspective. In the Universal Laws, this is known as the Law of Relativity. Everything is neutral. Nothing is good or bad, right or wrong, near or far, big or small, it’s all relative and we can choose to see things how ever we want. Nothing means anything until we give it meaning.


Anais Nin once said “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”. I love this quote because I need a constant reminder that it is my perception that creates and colours my world. Just because I think it is so, doesn’t actually make it so. We have lenses that we see life through, and that lens has been coloured from all of our life experiences, our conditioning and our personalities. If I’ve had a bad day then the chances are my lens is going to make everything look a little different from if I had an amazing day. I may see a crazy guy cut me up on the road, but that crazy guy might be rushing to the hospital to see his dying wife. If I choose to stay wrapped up in the story of this guy who was purposely trying to run me off the road, which is my story, not fact, then that may have a knock on effect to how I see everything that happens that day. Maybe I’ll think that everyone is out to get me. Maybe I’ll think the world is against me or that I have such terrible luck. Or, since I get to make up the story in my mind anyway, maybe I choose to believe he’s rushing to meet his new baby. Or he’s rushing to the airport to pick his mum up who he hasn’t seen in years. Isn’t the world a beautiful place when people get to meet their babies and be reunited with their family!


In terms of relativity there is always someone worse off than you. It’s not to minimise your suffering, if you’re having a tough time then you’re having a tough time, but sometimes it is useful to really turn a situation around and ask yourself, what’s actually great about this situation? How am I much better off than the next guy? I may have crashed my car but how privileged am I to have a car to drive?? I may have broken my leg but thank goodness it wasn’t my back! Sometimes relating to another person’s situation allows us to gain some new perspective and subsequently feel better.


I think the story about the Chinese farmer also asks us to zoom out and look at a much bigger picture. We may think that something terrible has happened but who knows what that might lead to in the future? Our misfortune may actually end up being a blessing in disguise. It’s sometimes hard, when someone does something to us that we label as ‘bad’ and they keep having all this amazing stuff happen to them. I often hear people say “why do good things happen to bad people?” “How come he’s experiencing all this luck after the way he’s treated me?” “ How is that Karma?”  It’s important to have the perspective of the bigger picture.  Linear time is a human invention and things aren’t always as they seem.


It also teaches us acceptance for what is. We can get carried away in the drama of a situation and create all these meanings and stories around something, or, we can just accept it as a circumstance, something that has merely ‘occurred’ and means nothing. We can get ourselves wrapped up in circles, thinking about ‘what if’s’, but if we just accept that everything happens the way it happens because that was simply the way it was meant to happen, it takes the drama out of it. We can simply accept life as it is, rather than wasting energy on what could have been.


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