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A Lesson Or Two For Now - From Norman Vincent Peale

What lessons can Mr. Norman Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking” offer us during these unprecedented times?

Norman Vincent Peale

Wherever you may fall on the faith spectrum, there are grains of wisdom to be found among the pages of one of Mr. Peale’s most popular books – The Power of Positive Thinking. Depending on where you are or what you are facing, different nuggets stand out. For the younger me, the golden lessons were ‘How to have constant energy’ and ‘I don’t believe in defeat.’

This time ‘round, facing what we have all been facing for the past year and more, what caught my eye was this - Stop Fuming and Fretting. While that sounds like a brilliant plan, the fact remains that ‘fuming and fretting’ is most of our default setting. Long before self-help books became all the rage, our ancestors told stories to impart life lessons. One such fable makes it easy to remember and follow Mr. Peale’s words.

Once upon a time, there was a poor Chinese farmer who owned a small piece of land and a very beautiful and strong white horse. Rich people who passed by his village saw his horse offered to buy it for large sums of money. He always refused to sell because he was very attached to his horse and could not bear to part with it.

One day, the emperor with his huge army happened to camp near the village. When the emperor saw the horse, he instantly fell in love with it and immediately sent his people to offer the farmer whatever he wanted for that horse.

All his neighbors started saying: “How lucky you are! The emperor wants to buy your horse!” but the farmer replied: “Who knows….”

When the farmer refused to sell his beloved horse, all his neighbors said: “What have you done? Now the emperor will take the horse by force and punish you!” but the farmer replied: “Who knows….”

The very next day, the horse went missing, so the neighbors assumed that the emperor’s men had stolen it. “What bad luck,” they said to the farmer, “you did not want to sell the horse to the emperor. Now he took it, and you are left with nothing!” Once again, the farmer stoically replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no. Who knows?”

The following day, the horse came back and brought seven strong, wild horses along with it. The neighbors gathered around the farmer and expressed their delight, “This is wonderful! How fortunate! You were right not to sell the horse! Now you have eight beautiful, strong horses instead of just one!” The farmer, relaxed and calm, shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Fortunate or unfortunate. Who knows?”

The farmer’s son, who worked on the family farm, started taming the wild horses. One day, a mare threw him over. He fell hard onto the ground and broke his right leg. He had to remain bedridden for months and would be unable to help his father with the farm. The neighbors were quick to say to the farmer, “Oh, this is awful! Such bad luck!” The farmer, who was helping his son recover, replied softly, “Good luck or bad luck. Who can say?”

A few weeks later, war broke out, and the army came to the village and forced all able-bodied men to join the military and fight the invaders. The farmer’s son, due to his broken leg, was left at home with his father.

The neighbors devastated that their sons were sent off to the front and, not knowing whether they would see them again, said to the farmer, “How lucky! Your son is safe.”Again, the farmer replied, “Good luck or bad luck. How do we know?”

Indeed... who knows?

We anticipate trouble. Prepare for dreadful scenarios. Think through all possible outcomes. While all this is well and good, organism Coronavirus has taught us that all our well-laid plans can be upset by a minuscule, invisible being.

Mr. Peale goes on to say - Inflow Of New Thoughts Can Remake You.

There’s no better illustration of this than how many of us chose to describe our restricted lives. We were “stuck at home,” we said, until those really “stuck” in the hospital pointed out that we “were home” while they were “stuck.”

So, let’s not allow the virus to corrode our attitude and sour our perspectives. Let’s cut back on the fretting and fuming. Let’s think thoughts that can make us better selves. Let’s unleash the power lurking within us all.