“Maybe” The Parable of the Chinese Farmer [2:20]


This classic parable about a Chinese farmer who always says “maybe”.  First his horses run away and his neighbors feel sorry for his bad fortune.  But then they return with more wild horses.  His neighbors are now happy for his good fortune, but the farmer keeps pointing out that he doesn’t know if it’s good or bad fortune yet.  The story continues like this and then the narrator gives an interpretation of the story.  Life and nature is too complex for us to understand the full effects of any one part.  This can be humbling and help us cope with both tragedy and joy.

Discussion Questions

  • What kept happening to the farmer?
  • How did his friends interpret his luck?  Why?
  • How did the farmer interpret his luck?  What did he mean by “maybe”?
  • What does this say about our ability to tell how good or bad something is?  or about the future?
  • Can we ever really know the full consequences our actions or what happens to us?
  • What should we do given our complex world?  What lessons can we learn?
  • Do you think that luck or fate exist?  What do you mean by luck or fate?

Keywords: parable, story, storytelling, for children, Chinese, Buddhism, Stoic, attachment


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