The Woodcutter: How to Embrace the Present

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By Jami Keller

Long ago, there was once a wise Woodcutter who lived in a small village. He would go out each day looking for wood to bring back to village, prepare it for carpentry, and sell it to his fellow Villagers. While out on one of of his wood finding exhibitions, he sees the most beautiful stallion he has ever seen in a nearby field. Oddly, the stallion boldly comes towards him without fear. As the Woodcutter continued on his work, the stallion continued to follow him all the way back to the village. 

Over the next several weeks, the stallion allows him to ride him, and soon he makes his daily trips with his new friend. The horse becomes a great help, and the Woodcutter is soon able to triple the amount of wood he can prepare in a day. 

The villagers come to the woodcutter to praise him for this great blessing that is this horse. They in fact benefit from this as well, in the form of cheaper wood and better building materials. The Villagers began visiting regularly to admire the stallion, and to each compliment the Woodcutter would respond “I don’t know, is it a good thing or a bad thing? I like the horse and having the companionship, plus the advantages that this horse brings to us all.” The Villagers would often agree to his face in admiration, and later question his response. Of course it was a good thing! It was nothing but great, was it not? 

The Woodcutter must have been a man who had vision. Vision is having a bigger picture of himself, and those around him, in order to realize the value of good communication. This was useful to him in that he was able to understand his role and value in the community. To gain this vision, he first had to see the value in all living things. 

The Woodcutter did not let his feelings rule his life, but was able to feel the full measure of feelings and navigate his choices with full awareness of his feelings. He was able to actively choose to not let what happened to him dictate his outlook on life. He was aware that his happiness was dependent on his own choices, not strokes of (what the Villagers thought were) luck. 

News spread about this horse, and one day the King came to visit. The King was so impressed with this majestic animal that he offered the Woodcutter half of the gold in the kingdom because “This stallion needs to be the stud of my stables.” The Woodcutter was shocked and told the King “Your Majesty, I am honored that you like the horse, but I regret to tell you that I can not sell you the horse. He is a friend, and not a possession that I have the right to sell.” The King was very impressed that a villager could turn down such an offer while having a respectable reason to do so. The King agreed with the Woodcutter and went on his way. 

The Villagers were were angry and frustrated. “Why would you not take the gold? We could have all been rich. What is wrong with you? You are a fool!”  The Woodcutter responded. “I do not know, is it a good thing or bad thing? I have kept my honor and my friend the horse.” 

Time passed and one day the Woodcutter went out to collect wood and found that the horse was missing. The Villagers noticed and confronted the woodcutter: “Not only do you not have the gold the King offered you, now you have no horse!” The Woodcutter replied, once again, “I do not know, is it a good thing or a bad thing?” The Villagers walked away shaking their heads mumbling that the Woodcutter may not be fit to be in their village. 

When this kind of loss happens, there has to be a foundation of joy in our hearts that prevails even when there would be no reason for joy. These lessons are never easy, and require a level of wisdom that not everyone will allow themselves to achieve. 

Not long afterword, the horse reappeared, along with 20 other horses. The stallion had gone out and won the leadership as the heard of horses. Now, the Woodcutter had 21 horses and was scrambling to care for them. Word spread like it does in a community, and most of the village came to help and witness the unusual circumstance. The Villagers went to the Woodcutter, hats in hands, hopeful to benefit from the new fortune. 

“Forgive us most wise Woodcutter, this is a huge blessing to you and all of us.” The Woodcutter, who now was responsible for feeding and shoveling up after the horses, told them once again: “I don’t know, is this a good thing or a bad thing? I am glad to have my horse back but this is overwhelming.” 

Because of the value of the horses and the need for them to be trained, the Woodcutters only son began training the horses with him. Tragically, the Woodcutters son was thrown off a horse and broke both his legs. It was unlikely that he would walk again or be able to continue to Woodcutters lineage. The Villagers brought food and helped with chores, while giving their condolences about this terrible thing. The villagers kept telling him how unlucky his son was, and how unlucky it would be to not see his name continue. The Woodcutter was full of gratitude that his son lived, and replied to the villagers comments by saying “I don’t know, is it a good thing or a bad thing?” 

The Woodcutter gives us insight for when tragedy happens. Finding hope in these times is often the difference between becoming bitter and working towards being fully present. The loss of the ability to walk, especially in this long ago time, was vital to all life. The son would need care for as long as he could not walk, and the Woodcutter was willing and ready to do this care with gratitude for the service; Loving what is means being present to the miracle of all life. 




Shortly after his sons accident, the King returns to the village. He is there to recruit all the able bodied young men to fight in a gruesome war. Most do not return from the war, and those that did were never the same. Many mothers and fathers of the sons who did not make it would often visit the Woodcutter’s son, always commenting on how lucky the Woodcutter was to still have his son. The Woodcutter and his son lived their lives as an example of what is truly good. They continued to have many hardships, but also had much success.

I’ve been telling this story for many years, and each time I am reminded of just how well it captures several of Passion Provokers core beliefs, to name a few:

1. The Villagers in our lives rarely know what is really going on and almost always have their own agenda. Be wary of the Villagers in your life, because they will always have an opinion that is based on their needs, not necessarily yours. 

2. No matter how positive or negative something may seem, you always have a choice in how you feel and respond. 

3. Be present to all the relationships you have, because love is the only reason for life.