Yen Yuan said to Confucius, "I once crossed the gulf at Goblet Deeps and the ferryman handled the boat with supernatural skill. I asked him, `Can a person learn how to handle a boat?' and he replied, `Certainly. A good swimmer will in no time get the knack of it. And, if a man can swim under water, he may never have seen a boat before and still he'll know how to handle it!' I asked him what he meant by that, but he wouldn't tell me. May I venture to ask you what it means?"The basic skills of life are fluid -- they apply to all things. If a person knows how to concentrate without focusing on the aim of concentration, it is that much easier to hone in on the fundamental elements of almost any circumstance or situation.
Confucius said, "A good swimmer will in no time get the knack of it - that means he's forgotten the water. If a man can swim under water, he may never have seen a boat before and still he'll know how to handle it - that's because he sees the water as so much dry land, and regards the capsizing of a boat as he would the overturning of a cart. The ten thousand things may all be capsizing and backsliding at the same time right in front of him and it can't get at him and affect what's inside - so where could he go and not be at ease?
"When you're betting for tiles in an archery contest, you shoot with skill. When you're betting for fancy belt buckles, you worry about your aim. And when you're betting for real gold, you're a nervous wreck. Your skill is the same in all three cases - but because one prize means more to you than another, you let outside considerations weigh on your mind. He who looks too hard at the outside gets clumsy on the inside."
~ Burton Watson translation ~
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