Bow and arrow

archery offers lessons for daily life


Paulo Coelho | June 2004 issue
Over the past 15 years I remember experiencing overwhelming passion on only a few occasions. It happened when I abandoned my typewriter, bought a computer and discovered a new freedom. (I am writing this in another city on another continent using a device that weighs just over three pounds, stores ten years of my professional career and allows me to find whatever I need within five seconds.)
A more recent infatuation had nothing to do with technological progress. It was when I fell in love with the bow and arrow. In my apartment in Brazil I’ve installed a removable target. When I’m in the French mountains I go out every day to practice, even when it’s only 20 degrees outside, which has landed me in bed twice with hypothermia. When I attended this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, I needed heavy painkillers for the muscle inflammation caused by straining my bow arm.
Where does this incredible fascination come from? I had read a fascinating book, Zen in the Art of Archery, by Eugen Herrigel (reissued by Vintage), in which the author talks about his spiritual path through the practice of this sport. The idea floated around in my unconscious until one day in the Pyrenees I met an archer. We started chatting and he lent me his equipment. From then on I couldn’t live without doing a little target practice just about every day.
There’s nothing practical about shooting with a bow and arrow, a weapon that dates back 30,000 years before Christ. But Herrigel, who sparked my initial passion, knew what he was talking about. Here are a few passages from Zen in the Art of Archery which are applicable to various activities in daily life:
“My teacher gave me a rigid bow. I asked him why he was starting out by instructing me as if I were a professional. He said that if you start out with easy things, you won’t be prepared for tough challenges. You’re better off knowing right away what type of difficulties you’ll encounter along the way.”
“For a long time I shot without being able to tighten the bow completely. Then one day my teacher taught me a breathing technique that made everything easier. When I asked why he had waited so long to correct me, he said, ‘If I had taught you this technique from the very beginning, you wouldn’t have thought you needed it. Now you will believe what I say and carry it out as if it were truly important. Good instructors take this approach.’”
“After four years I was able to master the bow and my teacher congratulated me. I was pleased and said I was now halfway there. ‘No,’ my teacher said. ‘In order to avoid walking into a treacherous ambush, you’re better off considering yourself halfway there when you have completed ninety percent of your journey.’”
Please note: Using a bow and arrow is dangerous. Certain countries consider it a weapon to be practiced only with a permit and in specially designated areas.
 

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Bow and arrow

archery offers lessons for daily life


Paulo Coelho | June 2004 issue
Over the past 15 years I remember experiencing overwhelming passion on only a few occasions. It happened when I abandoned my typewriter, bought a computer and discovered a new freedom. (I am writing this in another city on another continent using a device that weighs just over three pounds, stores ten years of my professional career and allows me to find whatever I need within five seconds.)
A more recent infatuation had nothing to do with technological progress. It was when I fell in love with the bow and arrow. In my apartment in Brazil I’ve installed a removable target. When I’m in the French mountains I go out every day to practice, even when it’s only 20 degrees outside, which has landed me in bed twice with hypothermia. When I attended this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, I needed heavy painkillers for the muscle inflammation caused by straining my bow arm.
Where does this incredible fascination come from? I had read a fascinating book, Zen in the Art of Archery, by Eugen Herrigel (reissued by Vintage), in which the author talks about his spiritual path through the practice of this sport. The idea floated around in my unconscious until one day in the Pyrenees I met an archer. We started chatting and he lent me his equipment. From then on I couldn’t live without doing a little target practice just about every day.
There’s nothing practical about shooting with a bow and arrow, a weapon that dates back 30,000 years before Christ. But Herrigel, who sparked my initial passion, knew what he was talking about. Here are a few passages from Zen in the Art of Archery which are applicable to various activities in daily life:
“My teacher gave me a rigid bow. I asked him why he was starting out by instructing me as if I were a professional. He said that if you start out with easy things, you won’t be prepared for tough challenges. You’re better off knowing right away what type of difficulties you’ll encounter along the way.”
“For a long time I shot without being able to tighten the bow completely. Then one day my teacher taught me a breathing technique that made everything easier. When I asked why he had waited so long to correct me, he said, ‘If I had taught you this technique from the very beginning, you wouldn’t have thought you needed it. Now you will believe what I say and carry it out as if it were truly important. Good instructors take this approach.’”
“After four years I was able to master the bow and my teacher congratulated me. I was pleased and said I was now halfway there. ‘No,’ my teacher said. ‘In order to avoid walking into a treacherous ambush, you’re better off considering yourself halfway there when you have completed ninety percent of your journey.’”
Please note: Using a bow and arrow is dangerous. Certain countries consider it a weapon to be practiced only with a permit and in specially designated areas.
 

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