“Sāi Wēng lived on the border and he raised horses for a living. One day, he lost one of his prized horses. After hearing of the misfortune, his neighbor felt sorry for him and came to comfort him. But Sāi Wēng simply asked, “How could we know it is not a good thing for me?” After a while, the lost horse returned and with another beautiful horse. The neighbor came over again, but this time congratulated Sāi Wēng on his good fortune. But Sāi Wēng simply asked, “How could we know it is not a bad thing for me?” One day, his son went out for a ride with the new horse. He was violently thrown from the horse and broke his leg. The neighbor once again came over and this time expressed their condolences to Sāi Wēng, but Sāi Wēng simply said, “How could we know it is not a good thing for me?” Not too long after, the Emperor’s army arrived at the village to recruit all able-bodied men to fight in the war. Because of his injury, Sāi Wēng’s son could not go off to war, and was spared from certain death.” (Old Chinese Proverb)
There is a great passage in the Bible that I feel applies to this old Chinese proverb as well. It says, “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.” (Ecclesiastes 7:14) So often in my life I have become angry over things that have brought pain upon my life and when they have, my emotions often have gotten the best of me. On the contrary, whenever things my ego deems as good occur, I usually rejoice. Oddly enough though, I’ve seen the inherent truth behind both this old Chinese proverb and Ecclesiastes 7:14 because I’ve experienced it firsthand.
When my father took his life in 1996 for example, the pain from that was incredible. Yet, it was the very thing that eventually led me to go on a retreat with The ManKind Project, a spiritual men’s organization that would go on to change my life and something I remain active in, even to this day. On the other hand, joining the ManKind Project would directly contribute to a number of broken friendships and the loss of connection with people I truly loved over the years. But, even there, through those losses, doors would close while others would open to even closer connections, and so on.
The same could be said for my mother’s passing, as there too, the pain that came from her tragic fall down the stairs while drunk was incredible. But, it was what directly led me to go on a 10-day silent retreat to deal with it where I learned how to meditate deeply and connected to something far Greater than I ever had before. Yet, when the buzz of that deep connection wore off after about six months of time, I felt a void within me like I’ve never felt before. Even there though, that void is precisely what’s driven me for the past decade to keep searching and experiencing more and more of the vastness of God, and so on.
On a much simpler level, I like to think of my partner Chris’s career path here as well, as when I met him, he was working quite happily at First Solar. When they laid off a number of their employees including him, the pain of that really depressed him immensely given his 11+ years there. That loss though would lead him to get a job at the Postal Service where he excelled right off the bat. There he found an amazing appreciation for being out in nature while he walked his routes, all while losing a ton of weight in the process, something he constantly struggled with doing prior. But then he took a serious fall one day on the job and ended up losing the job in the process because of it. Yet not too long after putting his resume back out there, he was hired by a company who found his resume, a place he’s still happily employed at now. There he’s gone on to get his bachelor’s degree and become the lead in his position as well.
Life is so much like this. We hate what we think is “bad” and crave the “good”, yet it’s the “bad” that always tends to lead to the “good” at some point and the “good” that always seems to bring about some “bad” at some point as well. Buddhism talks about suffering in this way. That suffering is essentially craving what we deem as good all while trying to avoid the bad, but freedom from that suffering comes from accepting both without purposely placing attachment to or detachment from either.
So, in the end, I see both the Chinese proverb and Ecclesiastes as great reminders that I don’t need to create more suffering upon myself by labeling anything as bad or good, when in reality, it’s all relative and it’s all God.
Dear God, I pray to fully accept what my ego often labels as either good or bad, knowing neither are inherently good or bad, and are instead just things happening in life in perpetual motion. Help me to experience the synchronicity of You, rather than constantly living in the suffering that comes from craving the good and running from the bad.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson