Seeing Beyond: A Parable

A short story by Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

One day in the dojo, a Beginner student was sparring a Senior student. The two students traded back and forth until the Senior student struck down the Beginner with the winning blow. The Master stepped in and stopped the match. The Senior bowed to the Master and to the Beginner student then stepped off the mats. Once the Senior was out of sight, the young martial artist asked his Master, "How do I anticipate my opponent's moves?"

"By opening your eyes," the Master answered.

"Open my eyes to what?" the Beginner asked.

"So you may see," said the Master.

Growing more confused, "See what?" the Beginner asked.

The master pointed his finger to the door, "To see beyond..."

The student looked at his master's finger. Frustrated, "Beyond what?" the Beginner questioned.

With even patience, "Beyond my finger," the Master said.

The Master flicked his hand at the Beginner's face. The beginner closed his eyes.

"When things are urgent, you close your eyes," the Master said. "You close your eyes yet you wish to prevail. But it is this moment when things are uncertain that you must urgently keep your eyes open. This is the only way you will triumph. You must train yourself to see. You must train yourself to keep your eyes open."

"Am I speaking about fighting or am I speaking of something else?" the Master asked.

"You are speaking about fighting," the Beginner answered.

"And even with eyes wide open, you do not see," the Master said. "What is seeing without thinking? Vision is selective. You see what you want to see, and you think what you see is all there is. The eyes are not the obstacle, the obstacle lies with the receiver. Can you think about thinking?"

"Is this a riddle?" the Beginner asked.

"That's up to you," the Master replied.

Once again, the Master held up his finger. "You see my finger, but you do not see where the finger points. Since what you did was sparring, and the words I used was about your eyes, you think that's all there is to it."

"I do not understand," the Beginner said. "Then what does what you are saying have to do with my question?"

"You are limited by a lack of knowledge, which is limited by a lack of curiosity, which is limited by a lack of imagination." The Master placed his hand on the head of the Beginner and turned his gaze from the dojo out into the horizon—into the moon and the stars. "The barrier between this match and everything out there only exists in your mind."

"See beyond, think beyond. Beyond the immediate and into the unknown. Into the unwritten. That takes talent. That is the rare and unfair advantage that will serve you well. Forward-seeing or short-sighted, what type of thinker will you choose to be? Is fighting about fighting, or is this training for something else? Is the senior your opponent or is he simply trying to help you learn? These things, only you can decide."

The student looked out through the open doors and into the world before him. Perhaps for the first time. The Master observed his student. Though he hoped for the best, he thought to himself, "It is still unclear which way he will go."

The Master had given this speech countless times. Some students will open their eyes but rarely will they ever see beyond the finger and into the moon.

Are parables motivational stories of the inherent greatness of man or are they cautionary reminders of man's weakness? Is there life outside what we know or is what we already know all there is to it? Only you can decide.

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