The Story of the Archer and The Arrow

There was once was a young archer who was a terrible hunter. Convinced that his poor performance was due to the cut of the arrowheads, he found the best archer in town and sharpened his arrowheads to a precise match. After securing the new arrowheads onto the tips his arrows, he returned to the forest to continue his hunt. Within minutes, he encountered a young grazing doe. He slowly raised his bow, fixating his eyes downrange. At the end of the wooden arrow, the arrowhead pointed a few inches above a deer’s midsection to compensate for the distance. As he released the string, the arrow sailed over the deer. The archer kicked the dirt in frustration, startling the deer deeper into the wood line.

Despite his training, he lacked patience in key moments. Bullishly convinced that his equipment was at fault, he sauntered back home empty handed, thinking of other ways he could improve his chances of hitting his targets.

“Aha!” He realized. “I need to design a better bow. If I do that, the arrows will move faster and more accurately.”

For one month, he designed the perfect longbow. He used a mixture of flexible wood and animal bone to optimize durability, speed, and accuracy. The archer completed the bow one morning before sunrise and eagerly returned to the forest to hunt. After hours of reconnaissance, he found a herd of bison — an easy shot for an apprentice. He climbed a nearby oak tree to get an aerial view, patiently waiting for the right opportunity. A large bison moved toward the tree and began to rub his body against the bark of the oak that the archer was in. He grabbed his fletched arrow and drew it back until the bow tightened to its capacity. He took careful aim, pointing directly downward onto the unwitting bison just as he had been trained. He released the string with great confidence. He missed again. The arrow furrowed into the earth below and the bison darted away.

“What is wrong with this bow?” He thought to himself.

The archer was upset. He was convinced that he wasted his time and energy with no signs of progress. Frustrated and weary, he slowly dozed off while looking at arrow’s casted shadow from the sun above.

Midday arrived and the beating sun woke the archer. Still disappointed, he looked at the arrow and realized the shadow was gone. He climbed down the oak tree and sat against it for hours, watching the shadow of the arrow slowly reappear and grow longer. He looked over at his own shadow and realized that it had grown longer as well. With this observation, he thought to himself.

“This arrow was in two places, one place, then two again. The arrow’s shadow is not only comprised of the arrow, but of the absence of the sun. The arrow is constantly an arrow, but in this context, it is a sundial. Sundials are stagnant and constant. They do not complain or get frustrated because they are always doing exactly what they need to be doing.”

The duality had a profound effect on the archer. He ran back home and knew what needed to be done.

Once arrived, he thought and thought. The shadows that he had seen concealed a truth that he could not yet articulate. He thought about how his shadow had grown with that of the arrow and how he was in harmony with the arrow for that moment. His eyes suddenly lit up as he fixed his lips for a declaration:

“I am the archer and the arrow! I am either one or the other, never neither. At home, I am an archer, a steward of persistence. At work, I am an archer, diligently working until the job is complete. When I train, I am an archer. Accuracy and patience is my pursuit. When I hunt, I am an archer, a lethal force. When I release the string of my bow, I am an arrow. For those moments in between the bow’s release, I am a fleeting culmination of my past and future. I am the arrow until it hits or misses the target. If I miss my target, it is not because of my poor form, but because this opportunity was not created for me to be a perfect arrow, but a humble archer.”

The young archer realized that his greatest tool was himself. He realized that the more he anticipated, the greater he will disappoint himself. By embodying the arrow during its flight, he could disconnect the outcome from his own feelings. The archer turned his monumental failures into accepted imperfections. He now equates his misses to the moments he misses a step on a stone while walking across a river — an unexpected and necessary part of the hunt.