Diurna: an Anthology of Short Stories and Poems

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The Archer (3)

The pupil nodded to the master’s judgment and thanked him. His eyes were watery, but he still tried not to cry. The master continued, “An archer must learn how and when to let go. An archer perfects his stance and knows his instrument. Thus he knows how to hold the bow and the arrow to build momentum. He keeps his position as long as it can. He must be ready. He waits. The true archer does not react. It is expecting its moment patiently. He prepares.

“The art of aiming lies in the accurate recognition of the target. The arrow only has one point, and the archer can only aim one arrow at a time. So there should be only one target. An archer is a fulfilled man. He should not be greedy. He should focus only on this one target. He stands and invincible against any distraction. For he is a fulfilled man, nothing in the world or from the heaven would seduce him. He is loyal to his target, giving full attention to his mark.

“But the final art of archery is to learn how and when to let go. The two lessons are something the archer can control. But the universe leaves some boundary on how much human can control life. And that is the limit every archer faced in the third lesson. The archer can always perfect his stance and aim. But the moment he releases the arrow, that is the moment he let the arrow fall into the law of the universe. It is not his to control anymore. It is now subject to the law of heaven and of the earth.

“When the arrow flew passing you, your job is finished. The arrow is in the care of the universe. If it destined that they arrow would hit, it would hit, no matter how many obstacles stands between you and your target. But when the universe decided it would not hit, it would not. Even when you stand next to your target and your target is larger than yourself. The fate of man is unforeseen. Man can decide and prepare his life, but the fate is not for him to decide.

“But do not mistake it from chance. Fate is where your effort and the law of the universe meets. An archer speaks of it when he has done his best on his stance and his aim. The gambler speaks of fate when he dreams of fortune. However, instead of cultivating and plowing his field, he played with the dice. He thinks of chance, but he never knew the difference. An archer is not a gambler. There is a matter of life and death that an archer holds as responsibility. Life and death are a grave matter. Never left it to the care of chance.

“The archer on the first surface, learn to let the arrow go from his hand. After such long time keeping it intact, building momentum while preparing the moment of its release, in the end, he has to let the arrow fly.

“The second surface is the moment when the archer realized he had no control anymore. The arrow is in the care of the universe.

“But the third surface is revealed when one sees deeper. The archer should detach himself from whatever result his shot gave. If it hit, he is not to be overjoyed. If it is not, he has no need of regret, anger, or fear.

“The Archer is always expecting the moment to come; he needs to be ready. When one arrow flew, at that moment he must be ready for the next arrow. The Archer must load his bow, regardless of the first shot would hit or not. He has no time to celebrate or to mourn. The question of an archer is only whether his last shot was a hit or miss.

“So learn when to let go. There is no shame in missing a target, as there is no glory in hitting one. What follows from whether you hit your target or not is only its consequences. When you can not let go of your attachment to an arrow that flew, you will not be ready for any consequences. Sometimes, when you are late to see the following effects, it could cause death in a battlefield. And death out of ignorance is a death of a fool.

“I have nothing more to teach. You already know everything that I know as an archer. It is my final lesson.”

My father said that pupil became the only successor of the master. After his teacher had said his final lesson, he was awakened. The blacksmith, the dancer, and the master archer learned their art in time, living and practicing the art they have chosen through their lifetime. The pupil got his belonging together, kneel before his master, and asked for a blessing. The cat came to linger on the master’s lap as the master said to his pupil, “I never had a student and I never will. Those were lessons from father to his son. The son was a good learner, and he is now an adult. He should now walk on his path.”

The pupil traveled throughout countries while practicing his art. When the war period started again, he became one of the famous warriors of the kingdom at that time. The story said he never miss a target. People would recognize him when they saw his graceful stance, ready to let his arrow off. My father said, the fame about how he always shot his target was, of course, exaggerated. People just never know how many time he had missed before, during years of his practice alone in an unknown place invisible to the eyes of other.


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