philosophy

Stoicism, Archery, and Zen


I love the stoic allegory of the bow.

Shooting the arrow is an allegory for live’s objectives and our way of achieving them.

There are many things that are under your control when shooting the arrow. You can measure the distance, feel wind’s direction on your face, tense the bow and aim at the bullseye. However, you cannot control how the wind is going to act when you throw the arrow, you cannot predict if someone will push you and make you miss the bullseye.

Some things are under our control, some are not.

In this specific example I want to compare the concept of tension and the handling of it from the stoic point of view and the eastearn.

Tension, the stress provider of life. You cannot shoot and arrow without some tension in the bow, just as you cannot achieve great goals without the tension that goes along with them.

Be the stone cliff against which the waves constantly break, standing firly against cliffthe fury of the ocean.

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus illustrates his idea of holding tension like being an inmovable cliff. Rough, rock solid standing against anything that comes to him, showing the greatness of his spirit against all adversity. Majestic.

His idea of tension is holding it, like the cliff against the ocean waves.

But what about using it?

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”

Bruce Lee

Here Bruce Lee illustrates another way of looking at tension. Whereas Marcus stands immovable against the water, Bruce is the water, molding himself to whatever situation he is in. Interesting?

Archery in eastern philosopy is, like the tea ceremony, practiced as a spiritual practice.

In archery, like in martial arts, it’s better to have a clear and relaxed mind. Like water, b977bc37-5a9a-4868-ad69-c38cc6fc618eno extra amount of energy nor to little is needed, just the necessary.

In this instance, I believe that stocism and zen are very, very alike. The mind must be constanlty trained for it to function optimally.

Stoicism can be aid by Zen buddhism in the sense that bought deal with calming the mind as an important part of living the best life possible.

Let your mind be like water. Adapting, or let your mind be like the immovable cliff.

Which do you think works better?

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