Sunday, 25 July 2010

The Farmer and His Mule

Two weeks today will have been married for forty years. Any such event brings with it many questions. Yesterday I was being asked by my family what I wanted to do to celebrate the event. My initial thought was why not wait another ten years and see what happens. I have an amazing gift for procrastination. I did manage to avoid having to make a decision yesterday but the process makes you stop and wonder about the forty years and the ones spent prior to marriage. I found myself wondering about the memorable moments and what effects they had had.

I discovered a strange thing. The moments that had most changed my life were those moments that given a choice I might have avoided. An example, the time I was forced not to speak for six months. Six months when the silence brought isolation, almost. Being on the edge of most conversations, a listener, rather than an active participant. To then be told this might have to be the way it would be for the rest of my life, and all that meant.

Now in reflection I have discovered this was a turning point, but also a very deep and meaningful moment. It was a mule moment. Let me explain by sharing with you the story of the farmer and his mule.

One day the mule fell into the farmer’s well. The farmer heard the mule making a terrible noise in its fear and desperation. After carefully assessing the situation, he sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbours together, told them what had happened, and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.

Initially the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back, He would shake it off and step up!

This he did, blow after blow. “Shake it off and step up…shake it off and step up…shake it off and step up!” He repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or how distressing the situation seemed, the old mule fought panic and just kept right on and on shaking it off and stepping up!

It wasn’t long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well!

What seemed like it would bury him actually helped him . . . all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.

This is the way of Tao!

Face our problems and respond to them positively, and refuse to give in to panic, bitterness, or self-pity. Find that inner being. From that six months I realize I had my first taste of art, and much more.

This blog is linked to my other;  The Coastal Path


  1. Wise words and ones that would serve me well to heed, especially right about now. You are a marvel, Ralph.

  2. Hi, Ralph, I am alive and well and late checking in! Well we always get wisdom where we can, that is one smart mule! Self-pity never works and bitterness always leaves a sour taste.

  3. Hello Ralph, I feel just like that old mule at the moment. Love this story. xx

  4. Well I used to be the mule with a capital 'M'. Now you can go ahead and bury me! I won't fight.