There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “May be,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “May be,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “May be,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “May be,” said the farmer.


Like a river, life has a predetermined path. Sometimes, the twists, turns and rapids don’t always seem to make sense, but patience, trust and time will explain each event and show it as part of the bigger picture. Ultimately, the river will end in the ocean.

This is a lesson that was illustrated more clearly than ever when I recently spent two weeks kayaking Madagascar’s largest river, the Betsiboka. Many single events on the Betsiboka didn’t make sense at the time but when we reached the take out we realized that some of the things we saw as bad luck saved the expedition and some of the things we saw as good luck nearly ended it.

We started the river and the there didn’t seem to be enough water to get down it. We saw this as bad luck. After our first 2 days we also didn’t think there would be enough gradient to produce class 5 whitewater. After 5 days, we found our first rapid. Our fears of not finding class 5 were gone instantly and we were all thankful that we didn’t have any more water as it would have been unmanageable. The rains came hard the next day and we saw the powerful storm as bad luck. We reached the next set of rapids and had just enough water to open up runnable lines. This was good luck. Such was the theme of our trip.

– Brad Ludden

May Be|Brad Ludden

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