The Fable of The Magnificent White Stallion
I can imagine life without my right arm. I experienced that for a few months. I can imagine life without a leg or even two. My experiential months altogether add up to a couple years. I coped.
The age of the dreaded cataracts has come upon me. With terror I imagine life without the sight of my eyeballs. Yesterday, after a sleepless night, I met my highly recommended surgeon. He put me at ease. That is good. He said I am not ready yet. Mucho bueno! Maybe six months, maybe a year. That is bad. He referred me to a retinologist in Guadalajara because of evidence of pressure on my retina in my left eye. Mucho mal!
In my wallet I had a newly purchased bus ticket for a planned trip to Guadalajara in three weeks. That is good.
I went to bed, exhausted, wondering why I couldn’t fall asleep, when I recalled a story I heard thirty-five years ago which changed my life. My problem is I forget to remember the story.
Once upon a time there lived a wise old man at the edge of a village in a remote and forgotten European country in the mountains. This old gentleman had two precious possessions, his young son and a magnificent white stallion.
On a dark and stormy night (All writers wish to write that phrase!) the wind howled and trees toppled. The storm raged and took out a portion of the enclosure which housed the beautiful stallion. Search as they did, the man and his son could not find the horse.
The next day the villagers rushed to console the old man, “Old Man, the storm came and your stallion has disappeared. This is a bad thing.”
The old man replied, “I don’t know that it is a bad thing. I only know that the winds blew and knocked down a wall and my stallion is gone. I don’t know that it is a bad thing.”
Weeks passed and the old man and his son repaired the storm damage. One morning they woke up and the magnificent white stallion had returned, leading six beautiful horses behind him.
Once again the villagers rushed to the old man, “Old Man, you were right. It was not a bad thing. It was a good thing. Your stallion has returned, bringing six new horses with him. It is indeed a good thing.”
The old man said, “I don’t know if it is a good thing. I only know that my stallion left in the storm and he has returned, bringing six horses with him.”
The man’s son began breaking the horses to ride and one morning a frisky mare threw him to the ground, where he landed on a rock and broke his leg.
Again the villagers rushed to see the old man, “Old Man, you were right. It was not a good thing that your stallion returned with six new horses. Now your son has a broken leg. It is a bad thing.”
The old man said, “I don’t know that it is a bad thing. I only know that my stallion disappeared and returned with six new horses and my son has a broken leg. I don’t know that it is a bad thing.”
That week the little country in which they lived declared war on their huge and powerful neighboring country and all the young men of the village were conscripted into the army where many would die fighting. Because he had a broken leg, the old man’s son did not have to go to war.
Once more the villagers rushed to see the old man, “Old Man, you are wise. It is not a bad thing that your son broke his leg. Our sons are marching to their death and your son is safe at home with a broken leg. It is a good thing.”
The old man said, “I don’t know that it is a good thing. I only know that my stallion disappeared in the storm, returned with six new horses, my son broke his leg and does not have to go to war. I don’t know that it is a good thing.”
And with that story, I realized that I know nothing. All I know is that in three weeks I will see a retinologist in Guadalajara and sometime in the future I will have cataract surgery on my eyes. When I label my life with “good” and “bad” I limit all other possibilities.
HDN: Looking out my back door
January 14, 2015