The Archers' Circle

For some, the process of life is learning to aim and the purpose of life is to shoot.

Imagine this is so for you. Now imagine you belong to an even numbered group of archers standing in a circle. Each shot fired will not kill, only tag and mark the target with a flag. This flag will decide for you everything about your future: who you'll be, what you'll do, how you'll evolve and who you'll love. 

You must choose any other archer in the circle as a target. Many archers choose the obvious target: the archer standing on the exact opposite end of the circle. Just as it is easiest to carry on conversation with the person sitting across from you at a table, this target is the one you notice first. It is the target who does not force you to turn your head. 

Choosing the conventional target for yourself, for your life, is the conventional path. 

There are archers who shoot the oblique target, uncertain of what will hit, or a target just off center, in hopes it gives them a different, less predictable outcome.  

Each of you pulls steadily back on the bow.

One more thing before you fire. This is real life, so this is not a small circle. It is enormous. It is virtually impossible to hit the target dead-on unless you are very good, unless you have the proper training. All archers are equidistant, but positioned at different angles to make things more confusing. Not all the shots will hit. Some will hit unintended targets. 

You all fire at once.

The arrow paths, when drawing out by graph, show a wild, blossoming flower. This flower is life. No one arrow path traces the same way. Some tags will cause you immeasurable pain; others will heap upon you immeasurable riches. Some will remain in the circle, not having hit any target at all, hoping for another round. 

This is messy. This is life. The point is that you aim and the point is that you fire. The rest is a spiraling path of intended - and unintended - cause and effect. 

I found the preceding analogy a fun, indulgent one once. I entertained myself, for a brief foolish time, that there was a circle - because I thought nobody had thought of it before - and it was only a series of misses for each of the archers, one after the other, ending in unfulfillable misery. I was wrong. There is no circle. Analogies like this make personal views convenient, but on their own, represent nothing more than childish dreams and self pity. No matter how many details you introduce to make its clever symbology airtight, something is always missing and something is always overlooked.. There is an element of randomness and strange circumstance and synchronicity and complexity present in everyday life that is unaccounted for by the circle, or similar models marketed to you by politicians or gurus or advertisers.  

Living one's life according to a single model, however clever, amounts to clinging to the dusty hobby-horse of youth. What matters is not to keep the analogy going at whatever cost, but to make sure, through whatever marketable, clever, conveyable or timeless theories and graphs and religions and modes you invent or participate in, that you consistently bring your true face and ride the hard path through it. Selflessness is sometimes hard. Unconditional love is hard. Resisting temptation is hard. But knowing all of those qualities are always defensible and right is not hard.

Long ago, I stopped myself and said: if it is convenient to see yourself with a bow, standing in a circle, then envision it. But by all means, if it is merely exacerbating and reinforcing your view that you won't ever get it right, then let the circle go.


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