Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Zen and Point of View

This parable illustrates the Zen teaching to accept life as it is without judging whether things are good or bad: A farmer’s horse runs away and his neighbors say, “Such bad luck,” to which the farmer replies, “Maybe.” The next day the horse returns with two wild horses. The neighbors say, “Such good luck,” to which the farmer replies, “Maybe.” The farmer’s son tries to ride one of the horses, but falls and breaks a leg. “Such bad luck,” the neighbors respond, which again meets with a reply of “Maybe.” The next day, soldiers come through the village and draft all of the healthy young men, except the farmer’s son with his broken leg.*

I can’t say that I was sorry to send 2009 packing and usher in 2010. Last year will not rank as one of my best. Yet when I reflect on the past 12 months, I find that what stands out for me is something rather nice. During 2009, I reconnected with quite a few friends and family members, some of whom I had not been in contact with for decades.

In many cases, we were brought back together by Facebook. The simple act of “friending” through social media has put me on their radar once again, allowed me to catch glimpses of their daily life and provided a fast and easy way to communicate with each other.

One of the main reasons I’m even on Facebook is because of something it’s hard not to view as negative. My work is drying up as traditional advertising vehicles are being abandoned for new media outlets. I need to become intimately familiar with social media to convince potential employers that I’m not a dinosaur in my field. So I’ve been dragged (just short of kicking and screaming) into the world of Facebook and Twitter, and yes, this blog.

Now that I’m here, I’m seeing not only how I can use social media to advertise my clients’ products and services, but also how I can use it to promote my own book. For example, I’m looking at using Craig’s List to advertise a promotional video on Facebook and You Tube that gets parents to see the value of my online novel so they’ll introduce it to their kids. And that’s just the beginning.

As much as I don’t like being drastically underemployed, it is forcing me to explore new avenues that will potentially benefit me down the road. So my situation is both a curse and a blessing, depending on how I choose to look at it.

This idea that everything in life has both its good side and bad side is central to my children’s novel, The Magic Hair. In the book, the heroine Nici has a mishap that causes her hair to grow to an unwieldy 20-foot length. Whenever she cuts off her tresses, they grow right back. Her unnaturally long locks provoke ridicule and fear, as well as making moving around terribly inconvenient.

When her hair becomes tangled in a horse’s hooves, Nici is sent flying into a river where she’s washed downstream and into a series of adventures. As she tries to find her way back home, she discovers the extraordinary power of her long locks and their ability to regenerate. At the end, Nici and her hair thwart a plot to overthrow the kingdom. So she becomes celebrated for the very thing that has caused her so much pain and turmoil along the way.

My hope is that children—or even adults—reading my story will learn to look at the negative things happening in their life (their parents’ divorce for example) and see that it also yields positive things (such as more attention from both parents).

It’s a view I’m trying to adopt myself. Because a healthier, more balanced take on life could help me enjoy the journey more.


*The story is sometimes called “The Farmer’s Luck” in the Western world. There’s a great children’s book titled Zen Shorts by John J. Muth that includes this and two other thought-provoking tales.


  1. great point of view.

    I find myself saying that there was a reason for anything happening or not happening in my life, and then I add a thank you for getting it or not getting it.

    It makes me see how much I have and how much I don't need.

  2. Love your philosophy.

    Perhaps an attitude of gratitude could help me end the eternal battle between my Glass-Half-Full and Glass-Half-Empty sides so that I can simply appreciate both the glass and its contents.