In the Case of the Archer: Zen and Tao for the Western Mind

How Zen and the Tao can guide you through the modern frenzy.

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

In the pursuit of achievement, we're bogged down by the weight of expectations. Modern money-driven society tells us we are aimless—and that this is bad.

They tell us: we must have goals, we must keep score, and we must achieve.

But in the case of the archer, an archer can shoot for the pleasure of shooting, yet when given the task of hitting a bulls-eye... things change.

She must measure herself. She must win. To be content is to be surpassed.

Everyone is an enemy; even her friends are her adversaries. Her life is one of contention, not contentment. Competition, not cooperation.

Modern society tells the archer, she must have a target, or else, how would she satisfy her ego? She will believe of herself: without a target, and without successfully besting her target, she's without worth. She's told: without aim, an archer does not exist.

Yet the archer exists regardless—no matter what she's told...

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Things Discussed

  • Misguided goal-setting & resulting

  • Zen, archery, and Awa Kenzo

  • Competition and capitalism

  • High expectations, low resilience

  • One's worth and existential questions

  • Shortcuts, hacks, short-term thinking, and human nature

  • Taoism

  • Binary opposition

  • Verschlimmbesserung – worsening improvement: solutions looking for problems

  • Zen and the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel

  • The Way of Chuang Tzu by Thomas Merton

  • Wu wei — trying not to try: effortless action

  • Networking, using people, and goal-oriented society

  • Human flourishing

  • Writer vs. gamer mindset

  • Goal-driven vs. process-driven

  • If you skip to the end, what life was there?

  • Curiosity, enthusiasm, and nature

Books I Recommend:


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