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Maybe: A Native American Tale

Updated on June 25, 2011

Maybe: assuredness in an unsure world

The world we live in is replete with mystery and questioning. Some feel that they know all the answers, whereas others are more content to passively watch events unfold, without ascribing voodoo, fate, or any pseudo-certainties to the outcome. This is one such tale, of a farmer who proves to be much wiser than all of those around him. It is not original to me; I did not create this tale, though I wish I had. I believe that Dan Millman describes it in his book "Way of the Peaceful Warrior," though I doubt the story is original to him, either. It's been about 18 years since I've read that fine book, so I could be wrong about that. In any event, I hope you enjoy it.

The Native Americans tell a story about a farmer. In addition to farming, the man collected feral horses so that he could make his living. One day, the farmer’s son brought home a beautiful, black horse. Everyone clamored around the farmer.

“What fine luck you have had by finding this horse!” they called.

The farmer merely replied, “Maybe.”

The creature was insanely wild and powerful and refused to be ridden by anyone. The son tried his luck by jumping onto the back of the horse, which promptly bucked him off. The young man hit the ground with a heavy thud and a sharp crack. He had broken his arm upon falling.

All of the neighbors heard about the incident and came to the man’s house to console him and his son.

“What bad luck this was,” they told the man, who promptly replied,


A week later there was a terrible battle in which 70 % of the young men of the village were killed. However, the farmer’s son had not gone into battle due to the broken arm. After the battle, the people reflected to the farmer what good luck his son had experienced by not going into battle.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

This story reflects the idea that we can’t know what the future will hold, nor if it will be good or bad (or even if we’ll change our ideas about it, in hindsight). What are your thoughts on this? Can we really control our destinies and our lives? Some religions tell us that we can, whereas others are more reticent on the matter. Superstition also tells us that we can control our destinies -not merely from intelligent actions, but from "luck" or "fate." What do you think?


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