Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Good? Bad?

There's a well known Taoist story about a farmer and a series of events that bring his neighbors out to alternately console and congratulate him. He loses his only work horse; the horse returns with several young wild horses. His son breaks his leg while trying to tame one of the horses; the broken leg saves him from being drafted into a battle in which every other young man from their village is killed. At each turn of events, as the neighbors weigh in on how "good" or "bad" the situation is, the farmer replies only with the words, "good news, bad news, who's to say?"

I thought of this story when Colin Powell came out as endorsing Barack Obama's candidacy. Here he is, a standard bearer for the Republican party, a decorated general, former Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying that, McCain's rhetoric aside, he believes that Barack Obama is the man with the right stuff to lead this nation. At one time Powell, himself, was discussed as a possible candidate for the Presidency, and Democrats and Republicans alike were excited at the prospect.

So this is good news, right? Well, who's to say? During the lead-in to the Iraq war Powell was excoriated by liberals as nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Bush Administration. His reputation as a man of principles, a reputation earned during the first Gulf War, seemed to have been permanently obliterated. And yet here we are, a few years later, celebrating his endorsement of Obama. Is Gen. Powell a good man? A bad man? It's hard to say.

And let's not forget that John McCain himself was once the darling of the Democrats. A straight talking maverick, he was seen as a potential running mate for John Kerry in 2004, and the possibility electrified many. So is he a good man or a bad man? It's hard to say.

I'm not advocating for a complete moral relativism. I am wanting to remind us--myself included--that in our rush to judge people "good" or "bad" we generally, usually, almost invariably, overlook the myriad shades and hues between black and white. Simple answers are almost always wrong; oversimplifications always are.

In Gassho,


"Out beyond concepts of right-ness and wrong-ness there is a field. I will meet you there."
~ Rumi Print this post

1 comment:

peter helenius said...

I tell that story of the chinese farmer allthe time and occasionally quote rumi as well....