December 23, 2008

We can't know the future

If you saw the movie "Charlie Wilson's War," you heard a variation on the story below at the end.
There was once a poor farmer who could afford to own just one horse. He took very good care of it, but one night it broke through a weak fence and ran away. The farmer's neighbors offered sympathy when they learned what had happened. "What bad luck!" they exclaimed. The farmer replied, "Maybe. Maybe not." [Or "We'll see" or "Perhaps" -- depending on what version you read.]

A week later, the farmer's horse returned, bringing with it three wild horses, and the farmer and his son managed to corral all of them. "What great luck!" his neighbors enthused. "Maybe," the farmer replied. "Maybe not."

The farmer's son set to work taming the wild horses, but while attempting to ride one of them, he was thrown to the ground and his leg was badly broken. "What terrible luck!" the neighbors said this time.

The farmer replied, "Maybe. Maybe not."

The next day, soldiers visited the farmer's village to draft all the local young men into the army of a warlord. Because of his broken leg, the farmer's son was the only young man not taken. The neighbors descended upon the farmer again. "What wonderful luck!" they exclaimed.

"Maybe," the farmer said. "Maybe not."

Sometimes we think we know what the outcome of a situation will be, but we really only know the outcome at that moment. It's impossible to know what future repercussions will arise from what happens today.

A couple of years ago, I was having an e-mail conversation with a friend who used to work for the local newspaper. In her e-mail, she suggested I pitch a certain reporter affiliated with a local women's magazine, and gave me her e-mail address. I replied, thanking her and telling her a couple of my ideas.

Well, apparently in clicking on the e-mail address to save it, I accidentally entered it into the "to" line, along with my friend's e-mail address. I didn't realize this until five minutes later when a message from said reporter appeared in my inbox.

At first I was confused. Then I realized what I had done! My face turned bright red as I read the e-mail. The reporter, surprisingly, was not particularly peeved but was confused about the e-mail and why I sent her an incomplete and random pitch.

Feeling like an idiot, I immediately responded, apologizing and clarifying what I had planned on sending her. She visited my website, read a couple of my articles, and two months later I had a piece in her magazine. Six months after that, I published another one. From that article, I gained one of my current clients.

We can't know the future, and we can never be sure how a chain of events will turn out.

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4 comments. Please add yours! :

Rich Hopkins said...

How does letting the world define your circumstances at any given time work with taking an active role in changing circumstances?

It was your action that saved the day with the email - not circumstantial luck.

A thought provoking post.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

No matter what action you take, you can never predict the final result.

We might take all the "right" actions, but everything goes wrong. Or vice versa.

Whether or not you have control over your actions, you still can't know what the repercussions will be.

Lucy said...

We go in with the good and right intentions and hope for the best. For me, a positive attitude is the way to go...and then...whatever happens, happens. Great post!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks, Ms. Lucy.

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