Good News, Bad News, Who Knows?

god news bad news who knows?

“I’m a strong believer that there is a spiritual purpose behind everything that happens, whether we perceive it as being good or being bad.” — Bill Gates

Update: 10/10/21

I originally wrote this article in March, 2020, a few days after coming back to the UK from India due to the Covid outbreak . Who would have thought it would still be going on 18 months later?

The wisdom “Good news, bad news, who knows?” has served me well during these strange and challenging times.

What a crazy last few days these have been—unprecedented in so many ways.

I can’t believe it has only been 10 days since I left Gokarna, the temple town on the West coast of India where I’d been staying the last few weeks. It already feels like months ago, so much has changed.

As soon as I heard about the impending closure of roads and airports, I cut my trip short and managed to get out— by the skin of my teeth, as it turned out.

Several friends were not so fortunate and are still stranded there, almost two weeks later.

Arriving home, I discovered that Spain, where we were supposed to be moving to, was no longer an option as the entire country is in lockdown.

So last night, my partner and I hurriedly arranged temporary accommodation (we have tenants living in our own home) and this morning, I woke up in a strange bed — but grateful to have made it home safely and grateful for small things, such as the bright sunshine streaming in through the window.

As the situation changes day by day, we’re all having to make adjustments and compromises that would have been unthinkable even a short time ago. We are quickly having to adjust to a new reality.

And people are understandably afraid.

But every dark cloud  has a silver lining.

News is also filtering through of unprecedented positive changes happening (more about that later)—events that are only being made possible through the hand of extreme circumstance.

As we try to make sense of what’s unfolding around us, it’s helpful to bear in mind the perspective presented in the old Chinese parable, “good news bad news, who knows?”


Switch Off Your Mind

It goes like this:

Good News, Bad News, Who Knows?

There was once an old Chinese farmer who had a horse to plough his fields.

One morning he woke up to discover the horse had run away during the night.

Seeing this, his neighbour said, “That’s terrible. What are you going to do now?”

The farmer, who was a wise man, replied, “Good news, bad news, who can say?”

A couple of days later, the horse returned, accompanied by another horse.

This time, the neighbour said, “What great good fortune!”

The farmer’s response was the same: “Good news, bad news, who knows?”

The farmer gave the second horse to his son but soon afterwards, the horse threw him and he broke his leg.

Seeing this, the neighbour said to the farmer: “So sorry for the bad news about your son. Who’s going to help you on the farm now?”

To which the farmer answered, “Good news, bad news, who can say?”

A week later, war broke out in the province. All the able-bodied young men were drafted to fight. Being injured, the farmer’s son was spared.

The neighbour said, “What a relief that your son doesn’t have to go to war.”

Good news, bad news, who knows?” replied the farmer.


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We Only See Part Of The Picture

“Good news, bad news? How can you tell, based on a snapshot of a single moment.” 

I’m guessing that, like me, you’ve probably had experiences in your life which seemed wholly negative at the time but turned out, with hindsight, to be blessings in disguise.

The tendency is to take a snapshot of one frame in the movie and to label it as bad or wrong—without knowing what the next scene has in store.

I recently read about a surfer in Australia who was savagely attacked by a shark and needed emergency surgery. During the operation the surgeon discovered a malignant tumour in his body. The shark attack saved his life.

As we navigate our way through the uncharted waters of these difficult and somewhat surreal times, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the frenzied, media-fuelled narrative of fear and panic.

Ominous images of men in masks and forensic suits, daily death counts and warnings of impending disaster have gripped everyone in fear.

And it is scary. I’m not suggesting for a moment that we shouldn’t heed the warnings and behave responsibly.

What I am suggesting is that there may be more to the picture.

Yes, the pandemic is worrying. Yes, people are losing their livelihoods. Yes, some people are dying.

But at the same time, there are some incredible, equally unprecedented positives coming out of the situation.

Dolphins and swans are returning to the now clear canal waters of Venice.

The skies over Mumbai are blue and pollution-free for the first time in years.

The birds are singing again in Wuhan.

As more people work from home, there has been a dramatic reduction in the amount of noxious rush hour fumes being spewed into the atmosphere. Every grounded flight or cruise ship is a plus for the environment.

Locked down residents in Italy are performing impromptu concerts on their verandas in solidarity with their neighbours.

Friends of mine—spared the tedious commute into work each day— are loving being able to slow down, work from home and spend more time with their families.

Communities are coming together, people are looking out for each other, nature is regrouping and beginning to flourish again, the earth is breathing more freely.

Who can say what’s good or bad news?

Who can say where this is all leading?

Perhaps what is happening right now is the exact set of circumstances needed for the earth to heal and for humanity to move into the next stage of its evolution—to live in a more balanced, more conscious, more loving and compassionate way?

How are you dealing with the current situation? Leave a comment below.
And please share the article if you enjoyed it.


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10 thoughts on “Good News, Bad News, Who Knows?”

  1. Richard that is such a beautiful perspective to bring to this horrible scary time. It is indeed like the earth acting on climate change as we have not. I personally don’t want things to return to ‘normal’ but to something more balanced and considered.

    1. I agree Fiona. It seemed we had reached the limit of how far we could go with degrading the natural world… and there didn’t seem to be any political willingness to make the necessary changes. Perhaps in future, we’ll look back on this as the event that saved us and the planet. Who knows? The issue, as you say, is whether we will choose to change our ways after this and live in a more conscious way.

  2. Hi Richard brilliant site, love the way you put and explain things in a language I find easy to understand. Love the quotes and sayings you include and I can honestly say you have helped me understand how our thoughts work at not be anywhere near as troubled by them as I once was, my thoughts no longer anywhere near as dominant or spoil my wonderful life :-).
    Daily dose of vitamin G is just what the doctor ordered 🙂
    Thank you

  3. Thank you for that perspective. As I’m sure many of us have read or have experienced, the 2nd pandemic that is occurring now is human fear. It’s incredibly helpful to begin to tame that when I read the positive message you have put out. Thank you and much appreciated.

    1. I’d agree Sofia. Every person who buys into the fear becomes part of the problem rather than the solution. As individuals,the best thing we can do to heal the situation is to remain calm and focus on positive and uplifting qualities such as kindness, compassion and love.Thank you for your lovely message.

  4. Sister Marie Julie

    I’m just reading this now, December 18. Now we have a critical political divide in our beautiful country. This, too, becomes a blessing when we place it in God’s care (well, it’s already there).
    Thank you for the wisdom story. Let there be peace and let it begin with me.

    1. Thank you for your beautiful message. From one perspective, the world seems so messed up just now. At the same time, there is a wondrous perfection at work behind all the apparent imperfections. Through choosing for peace on an individual level, we are best able to serve the whole.

  5. One of my thoughts for some time now was that families were expending far too much time driving kids to structured activities and sports. They were skipping dinners, eating out and ultimately becoming obese. There was a hectic pace that caused stress to everyone. It seemed to cripple children’s creativity , negotiation skills, compassion and thinking for themselves. As per my experience, we learned these skills by playing with others in our neighborhood without the constant supervision of adults. Now that we have been forced to be home more, I believe people have seen the benefit of family time, meals at home and sharing family life. Good news bad news is a great parable for the silver lining of this pandemic. In my opinion the track we were on was very destructive to relationships, health, and social consciousness.

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