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the thief

In many mystical and traditional systems the figure of the thief comes up in teaching stories. You see it refracted in popular culture in the beguiling character Bilbo Baggins who must become a burglar to defeat Smaug and get the gold. A thief is cunning, maybe, but more than that he or she has to think on their feet, think for themselves, assess the actual situation and know when to strike- have some sense of timing.

In traditional martial arts the teacher does not 'teach'. Quite often he aims to obscure his real skills, where the real information lies. The students are enjoined 'to steal his technique'. They hang around after hours, watch him very very closely and sometimes get it. (But in the modern world they are then tempted to go public, franchise the product and retire on the proceeds...)

One reason for 'not teaching' is the very good one that the teacher may not know himself how he does something. And by trying to communicate it verbally may hinder your efforts to learn. You need to see for yourself and frame it in your own terms. Though of course this is fraught with further difficulties if you have tendency to project onto what you see.

The key, or one, lies in looking carefuly. This means looking with a 'transparent head' on. A mind that is all eyes and no running dialogue. Never mind the whirling arms, the shouts, what is really going on?

The thief plans a heist. He scopes out the joint, he sees what is just part of the furniture and what is valuable. he sees which window is vulnerable and which is alarmed. Now take that metaphor and see how you approach those who have something you admire, some truth seeking ability and truth dealing ability and disregard what they say, or take it as just one more ingredient. Really look at what they do. Pay especial attention to the moves made to distract you, then look elsewhere. Usually it is closer to home, and on the surface quite mundane, even old fashioned...

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