2. Allies

The archer who does not share with others the joy of the bow and the arrow will never know his own qualities and defects.

Therefore, before you begin anything, seek out your allies, people who are interested in what you are doing. I’m not saying ‘seek out other archers’.

I’m saying: find people with other skills, because the way of the bow is no different from any other path that is followed with enthusiasm.

Your allies will not necessarily be the kind of dazzling people to whom everyone looks up and of whom they say: ‘There’s none better.’ On the contrary, they are people who are not afraid of making mistakes and who do, therefore, make mistakes, which is why their work often goes unrecognised. Yet they are just the kind of people who transform the world and, after many mistakes, manage to do something that can make a real difference in their community.

They are people who can’t bear to sit around waiting for things to happen in order to decide which attitude to adopt; they decide as they act, well aware that this could prove highly dangerous.

Living with such people is important for an archer because he needs to realise that before he faces the target, he must first feel free enough to change direction as he brings the bow up to his chest.

When he opens his hand and releases the string, he should say to himself: ‘As I was drawing the bow, I travelled a long road. Now I release this arrow knowing that I took the necessary risks and gave of my best.’

The best allies are those who do not think like everyone else. That is why when you seek companions with whom you can share your enthusiasm for archery, trust your intuition and pay no attention to what anyone else may say. People always judge others by taking as a model their own limitations, and other people’s opinions are often full of prejudice and fear.

Join with all those who experiment, take risks, fall, get hurt and then take more risks. Stay away from those who affirm truths, who criticise those who do not think like them, people who have never once taken a step unless they were sure they would be respected for doing so, and who prefer certainties to doubts.

Join with those who are open and not afraid to be vulnerable: they understand that people can only improve once they start looking at what their fellows are doing, not in order to judge them, but to admire them for their dedication and courage.

You might think that archery would be of no interest to, say, a baker or a farmer, but I can assure you that they will introduce whatever they see into what they do.

You will do the same: you will learn from the good baker how to use your hands and how to get the right mix of ingredients. You will learn from the farmer to have patience, to work hard, to respect the seasons and not to curse the storms, because it would be a waste of time.

Join with those who are as flexible as the wood of your bow and who understand the signs along the way. They are people who do not hesitate to change direction when they encounter some insuperable barrier, or when they see a better opportunity.

They have the qualities of water: flowing around rocks, adapting to the course of the river, sometimes forming into a lake until the hollow fills to overflowing, and they can continue on their way, because water never forgets that the sea is its destiny and that sooner or later it must be reached.

Join with those who have never said: ‘Right, that’s it, I’m going no further,’ because as sure as spring follows winter, nothing ever ends; after achieving your objective, you must start again, always using everything you have learned on the way.

Join with those who sing, tell stories, take pleasure in life, and have joy in their eyes, because joy is contagious and can prevent others from becoming paralysed by depression, loneliness and difficulties.

Join with those who do their work with enthusiasm, and because you could be as useful to them as they are to you, try to understand their tools too and how their skills could be improved.

The time has come, therefore, to meet your bow, your arrow, your target and your way.