Conventionally Unconventional with Kinder Fayssoux, MD

I’m not sure where this fable comes from, but I remember first hearing it in church as a young adult and discussing it with my mother afterward.  It is one of my favorites to share with patients and my own children because it really simplifies the difficult concept of recognizing how much power we have over how we feel about a situation.  I tried to look up the origin of the story, but it appears to be unknown.  I like to call it “Who Knows?” and it goes something like this….

The story is about a poor farmer who had one horse he used to help around the farm with tasks such as plowing the fields and pulling carts.

One day, the horse ran away. When the farmer’s neighbors heard, they offered their condolences as now he would have to work so much harder. But the man refused to be distraught over the bad news, and replied, “Good or bad? Who knows?”

The next week, the horse returned with another horse.  This time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on this great turn of luck. He again replied, “Good or bad? Who knows?

A few weeks later, the farmer’s son was riding the new horse and fell off and broke his leg. His neighbors cried and exclaimed how horrible this was. The farmer again said only, “Good or bad? Who knows?

The next week, a draft was announced, and the military took every healthy boy to war.  The farmer’s son was spared because of his broken leg.  The neighbors couldn’t believe what great news this was for the farmer.  But the farmer once again did not let it take him away from his work and his life and simply stated, “Good or bad? Who knows?”

How do you perceive this story’s message? I choose to see the translation as things happen in our lives, but it is perspective that makes them good or bad, stressful or not stressful.  

Stress has a huge impact on our health, both mentally and physically, and one of the easiest things we can strive to do is to embrace this Zen attitude toward the lows and highs of the past and future, and try to focus on the present and what it feels like to simply exist in the moment.  Breathing, meditation, prayer, laughing out loud, yoga and hugs and snuggles with loved ones are a few of the things you can do to practice this skill of being present in the moment. Whether you recognize it or not, as you build these habits, you are also exercising your “Who knows?” muscle and will find yourself much more grounded as life ebbs and flows around you.

Dr. Fayssoux is an integrative primary care practitioner with Ohm & Oot Wellness Medicine in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 469.9900. For more information, visit

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