Misery Business

There is an old parable about a man who had a newborn son. When his son was born, all the townspeople came to his home to congratulate him on this wonderful event. The man calmly replied to them, “Who is to say if this is good or bad.”

Some years later, when his son had become a man, he bought a horse. As his son was breaking in the horse, he fell off, breaking his leg. All the townspeople came and told the man how sorry they were that this horrible thing had happened. The man calmly replied to them,  “Who is to say if this is good or bad.”

Several weeks passed, and the man’s country went to war. Because his son was still very much wounded, the young man was not conscripted into the military, and therefore did not have to fight in the war. All the townspeople once again came and told the man how wonderful it was that he was able to keep his son, and once again, he told them “Who is to say if this is good or bad.”

When the man was old and grey, and he lay dying in his home after a long, full life, his son held his hand and cried, asking his father why such a horrible thing must happen. The old man caressed his son’s face, telling him one last time, “Who is to say if this is good or bad.”

Life is full of miserable situations and moments. Many of our days are not good ones. Or at least they are not pleasurable ones. Perhaps misery is not bad. Not to say that miserable things are good, per se, but perhaps they are not inherently bad.

I’ve come to realize that much of life is about being a loser. Failing at things, having things not line up, being disappointed, and being used, abused, mistreated, and manipulated are simply part of the human experience. And it would seem that these experiences are more than plentiful. Difficult things happen all the time. You are going to be a loser more often than not.

However, I have realized something else as well. It doesn’t matter how many of your days you wind up on the losing end, what matters is what you do with those winning days. Those few and precious moments where you win one, you have to make the most of those. You can have the crappiest decade, but that single day where things go right, if you capitalize on it, that can make all the difference.

I don’t have much else to say. I know this seems like a giant storm cloud with a razor thin silver lining, but that’s life. You’ve kinda gotta get over it. Because who is to say if this is good or bad. Who is to say if the next sunrise will bring you your big win? Who is to say that any of this will matter in a year?

So chin up, you lovable loser. Obtain your even-keel, because life is miserable, but it is not bad.


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