A famous archer traveled the countryside in search of a worthy rival. He heard of a particularly skilled archer and went to her house to meet her. Next to the house was a barn filled with targets and each target had an arrow right in the center of bull’s eye. Mightily impressed, he knocked on the door and asked to see the archer. To his surprise, an 8-year old girl came out. He introduced himself and asked her,
“I noticed the barn wall filled with targets and everyone of your arrows hit its mark. Tell me, what is your secret?”
“It’s quite simple,” replied the girl. “ I shoot arrows at the barn wall and then go up and draw targets around each one.”
Many times in a meeting or workshop or event like my recent Spring Concert, I find a moment to speak, searching for what needs to be said that no one else has said yet. (See the blog Represent for an example.) People sometimes come up to me afterwards and share that they were moved by my words and they seemed to be the exactly right ones to frame the occasion. Somehow I said precisely what they felt, but they hadn’t found the words for yet. When asked how I do that, I think of this story.
The right words for the occasion are simply the target drawn around the place the arrow landed, the ones that give a meaning and a purpose hidden in the situation itself, but needing to be spoken out loud to complete the experience. Sometimes the words affirm what people felt but needed to be cognizant of more precisely what that was, sometimes they challenge and reveal a new perspective that others hadn’t consciously considered, but now seemed to be right on the mark. Whether they are pointing out the flowers in the bushes or the elephant in the room, the result is the same.
I’m still trying to figure out what I have to offer the world and I know it has something to do with the power of art and the necessity for community and an increased awareness and caring for social justice and the creation and carrying of cultivated culture and the beauty and delight of children and the dignity and wisdom of elders and the joy of playing, singing and dancing and… well, all of it and more. Perhaps it all boils down to finding authentic meaning amidst the apparent chaos and my lifetime of reading non-fiction, fiction, poetry, writing articles, essays, occasional poetry is a large part of what has prepared me to find the right words at the right time for the right occasion. And this blog. 2038 targets over 7½ years drawn around the arrows of my daily experience. That’s a lot of practice.
Of course, I don’t always get it right. I’ve said—and still say— a lot of stupid things that turned an occasion sour. Or added nothing to the discussion or left people cold. That’s just the way things work. But it’s the commitment to attempt to draw the targets that makes things feel more interesting than a bunch of random arrows sticking out of a barn wall. That’s my path in life and one I’m grateful for and happy to accept.
Now off to shoot some more arrows.