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Reframing

There is an oft-repeated story of a Chinese farmer that goes something like this:

A farmer and his only son were busily plowing their fields when their horse broke free from its harness and ran off into the nearby hills. When their fellow villagers heard of their plight they began to commiserate, “Oh, what terrible luck! How unfortunate! What will you do?” To which the farmer responded, “Good luck, bad luck—who knows?” Several days later the farmer's horse returned with two other horses in tow. His fellow villagers were astonished as they exclaimed, “What wonderful luck! You lose your only horse and end up with three!” To which the farmer responded, “Good luck, bad luck—who knows?” Several days later the farmer's son was attempting to break one of the horses so as to put it into service on his land. The son was thrown from the horse and broke his arm. All the villagers were united in their opinion that this was indeed bad luck. The farmer as usual responded, “Good luck, bad luck—who knows?” The very next week the imperial army marched through the village conscripting all the able- bodied young men into the service. The farmer's son was spared due to his broken arm. The villagers were once again impressed with this man's extraordinary good luck and told him so. And he replied, “Good luck, bad luck—who knows?”


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