What A Taoist Parable and Gandalf Can Teach You About Your Mind

You can calm it if you take on a new perspective

Jeff Valdivia

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Photo by Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash

In The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf says to Frodo,

“…do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

He says this in response to Frodo’s wish that his uncle Bilbo had killed Gollum when he had the chance.

Death is the ultimate judgment, isn’t it? There’s a finality to it that other kinds of judgments don’t have — there’s no going back. So, if you’re going to deal out death in judgment, you better be damn sure you’re not making a mistake, right?

But there’s also a subtler way of taking this advice. If dealing out death in judgment represents ultimate certainty, Gandalf can also be interpreted as saying, don’t be overconfident in any of your conclusions. After all, he advises Frodo, “even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

Unless you count yourself amongst those who are wiser than the very wise, this is worth pondering, and there’s a Taoist parable that can help you do just that.

The farmer

This ancient Taoist parable illustrates Gandalf’s advice perfectly:

Long ago, a farmer grew vegetables on a small plot of land and owned a horse. One day, the farmer left the latch on the gate open and his horse escaped.

“What bad luck!” his neighbors told him sympathetically.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

After several days, the horse returned with 3 wild horses.

“What fantastic good luck!” his neighbors exclaimed joyfully.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

The next day, the farmer’s son fell from one of the wild horses and broke his leg.

“What terrible luck!” the neighbors declared sadly.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

While the farmer’s son was recovering from his injury, military officials came to the village and conscripted all the able-bodied young men.

“What amazing luck you have!” the neighbors stated enviously.

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Jeff Valdivia

Following my curiosity and hoping it will lead me to wisdom. I write about psychology, meditation, self-development, and spirituality.