There’s a Chinese parable I like. It basically goes like this:
“There once was a farmer whose only son grew up to be a great horse rider. ‘How good it is that my son is masterful with horses!’ the man said, and the villagers exclaimed, ‘Yes, it is wonderful that he is so good with horses,’ and no one could disagree.
One day, the boy was thrown from his best horse and injured badly. Both his legs were broken and his back was broken also. ‘A tragedy!’ cried his father, and the villagers lamented the crippled boy, agreeing that it was a terrible tragedy that the boy was thrown from his horse. The farmer cursed the day he taught his son to ride.
Not a week later, soldiers came to the village to take the young men away to war. When they stopped at the farmer’s house, they saw his crippled son and did not take him to fight because he was injured. ‘What luck!’ cried the farmer. ‘How good that my son was thrown from his horse!'”
The point is a question: what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’? I was diagnosed with a terrible disease several years ago; that felt pretty bad. But through my illness I found a sweetness to life that was until then unknown to me. Was it good, then, to be ill? Debatable, but…well, solidly debatable. Getting invited to my first cool kid party in high school was so very, very good for a nerd like me — but then I drank mass quantities of rum and apple juice, the room began to spin, and I wanted to die. That was, um, bad. (Rum and apple juice?? Oy. Youth is wasted on the young.)
But isn’t there a hard stop on this? Aren’t there some experiences or ideas or situations that are unequivocally good or unequivocally bad? Coming up with examples is not an easy exercise, but neither are squat thrusts and we all know how good those are for you. Just for fun, here are two straight-up “good” situations to be in and two clearly “bad” ones, at least according to me, at press time:
– kissing the boy (or girl) you have a crush on for the first time
– getting a paycheck
– having to hide in a broom closet, quickly
– gum in your hair
Right? I mean come on, now.