18 August 2015

Targets visible and targets undefined

You may think you've hit a bull's-eye and have missed the target
This is the forty second in a series of articles on rebels and rebellion written for the FREE section of 'The Nation'. Scroll to the end for other articles in this series.  'FREE' is dedicated to youth and youthfulness.

There’s a story that’s probably been retold many times.  When it arrived it had passed through so many minds and said in so many languages that the story teller’s name and those of the places and people concerned were lost.  The story is what matters though.  

A man wanted to learn archery.  He traveled a long distance so he could learn the art from one of the finest teachers.  The man, mathematically inclined, saw the entire exercise as a puzzle that needed to be solved.  

In his head were equations. There were variables and constants.  Distance and angles.  Firmness of hold and the play of the wind.  He thought he had figured everything out.  It came to a point when he could hit the target consistently. 

And yet, he got no praise from his teacher, who would always mutter ‘you are off target’.  He was frustrated.  He became angry at what he thought was a deliberate non-acknowledgment of skill. He got ready to leave.  So he packed his bags.  As he was about to leave, he saw the master with a small boy. He was going through the motions of drawing back the string and letting go.  

The little boy was, well, little.  It was a new sport for him.  He didn’t hit the target.  He was way off mark, in fact.  The perfectionist, however, realized the wisdom of his teacher. The true target was not hitting a bullseye but about letting go the ego along with the arrow.  

There are target.  All rebels have objectives.  They have tasks to perform.  If however the achieving of those objectives does not include a shedding of ego then some part of ‘self’ gets inscribed into the exercise as well as to that which has been achieved.  The discoloration is not immediately apparent, but something, some small part of it all has been tainted.  

There are wars that are fought and these are often recorded along with the names of the fighters.  So and so defeated so and so, the history book will say.  And then there are wars that don’t even appear like battles, conflagrations without armies or warriors, the attainment of the impossible without heroes.  Those are the true victories.  And the nameless who delivered these are somehow a higher caliber of heroes.  

What kind of war do you want to fight?  What kind of targets do you eye?  Where are you in all of that?  Where will you be when the battles are long forgotten by those who benefit from the victories you helped deliver to them?  You have to answer these questions as you fight.  It helps inject into everything a certain tenderness which is the ultimate antidote to counter-revolution, whichever way you may want to define it.  

If none of this makes sense, forget rebellion and think of archery. Forget visible targets and think of targets undefined.  Forget everything and ask yourself this simple question and reflect on it long: ‘what is the name of the person who invented the wheel?’ 

Other articles in this series