Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Parable of the Thief

(From the flash reading CSFW did at Boskone.)

Once there lived a thief of extraordinary deftness. His hands were so quick at deciphering the quality of a lock that it seemed that he had only to brush his fingers against the metal and the tumblers would open of their own accord. He grew so accustomed to his skill that it seemed to him that the skill of his hands were embedded in their sinew and bone rather than deriving from his mind and heart.

Indeed, his hands were so skillful and brilliant that they developed their own awareness and sophistication in perceiving the world. The right one observed how it was being utilized and in what manner. It attempted to discuss these activities with the left hand, but the left hand had its own nature kept its own counsel.

Over time, the right hand developed its own moral sense and purpose. It developed a conscience. The use of its considerable gifts in the service of thievery disturbed it. For a long time, it allowed itself to be used in this manner, against its own now deeply held beliefs, but too doubtful to criticize.

Eventually, the right hand decided it had had enough and refused further business of this sort. It made a fist when employed against a lock. Stiffened when soft and supple fingers were required.

This enraged the thief and he sat down and rebuked the hand, saying, "You must do as I command."

The hand, though frightened, spoke up: "I can see what you're doing is wrong and offensive. I will not serve in this matter further."

The thief considered this. He said: "Where were you when I was first learning to touch and hold things? Did you not remain silent? Were you not stupid from ignorance? Where were you when I touched a woman or caressed a flower? Did I not teach you suppleness and daring? Did I not give you opportunities to gain your own conscience? All that you are derives from me-- even your conscience and reluctance. Your thoughts are my thoughts. Your impulses are my impulses. Your deftness is my own. If your lesser intelligence is to be of any use in the world, it must be allied with my greater one."

The hand considered this and decided that the thief was right. It would remain silent and submit to the thief's will as a higher order being.

With that, the thief resumed his ways.

In time, the thief was captured and given punishment. In those days, this consisted of the amputation of his right hand. The hand, of course, withered and died. Forever after the thief tearfully cried in the middle of the night, mourning his loss to his left hand and lamenting his fate. Occasionally, he cursed the left hand, saying "Why did you not try to stop me from my ways as did your brother? With both of you against me, I would have had no choice but to change my ways."

But the left hand had its own nature and kept its own counsel.



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