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I do love our modern caricatures of ninjas, dressed in black pajamas, cat burglers so stealth as to be invisible. When I am not indulging in cheesy ninja movies, I like to call myself a ninja of spiritual warfare.

Something that has always intrigued me about ninjas is how very NOT stealth they are. I mean everyone is just pretending they don’t exist! It’s a total gaslight! I have a sensitivity radar that likes to scream at movies when they present an odd juxtaposition that just doesn’t compute. Like, look out behind you, there are 25 guys actually wearing ninja costumes…

The first rule of stealth and subversive club is, do not wear a easily recognizable uniform that stands out like a sore thumb.

So why can’t anybody ever see them? Why are they said to be invisible? I happen to be intrigued by why people can and can’t see things that are right there in front of them, so you know I’m going to leap down this rabbit hole.

First of all, ninjas are sort of a real thing, or rather there is some actual warrior history that gave rise to our modern legends. IRL, they probably more resembled peasants or farmers and tried to blend in with their surroundings. I don’t wish to quibble over history, but only to address the modern caricature, the romantized version of the ninja that we hold dear today. I wish to explain why so many people look right at them and go, oh yep, they are completely invisible and nobody can see them.

They are made of shadow and they can walk through walls…..

That is because they come from the theater! They are the original stage hands. Mostly from Kubuki theater, but the tradition of the black clad stage hand is shared across many cultures. All those props needed to be moved during a scene and so stage hands would sneak around in the shadows all dressed in black so as to not disturb the play. Legend has it that one clever playwright decided to incorporate one of them into the play by placing a knife in his hand and using him as the secret assassin. If so, this was an incredible act of creativity and I highly approve. Absolutely brilliant to merge reality with fantasy and employ a bit utility all at once.

Alas, I cannot confirm that tale of an actual play that brought a stage hand into the scene through any substantial research, but you can certainly track the rise of the modern ninja caricature through art and history, back to the stage hands of the days of old, all sneaking around in their black pajamas. Whether or not someone once incorporated them into the play remains in the realm of legends, at least for the moment.

Interestingly, people were trained to ignore them. Hundreds of years of play watching actually trained people to disregard what their lying eyes where telling them. Those black clad figures and shadows you might see on stage are not a part of the story, not part of the drama being presented, so they don’t even exist. They are invisible. Forget you even saw them. Don’t believe your lying eyes.

Sometimes remembering the story of the ninjas helps me to be more patient and understanding towards people. I am a freewill, rugged individualist myself, someone who believes that if people actually wanted to change, they would. I think that’s a good life lesson to embrace, people are the way they are because they believe it is acceptable. Don’t try to fix other people because you can’t. However, there are also other factors at play beyond our control that do impact our lives, even the lives of people who believe in freewill and full autonomy. Even for me. So when other people just can’t seem to see the 30 or so ninjas gathering all around them, it’s not necessarily their fault, it’s not necessary willful ignorance or deliberate foolishness or outright evil.

Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and blame the ninjas.