Storytelling at Work
September 27, 2016
The Best Archer in All of China


Once upon a time, in China, there was a young man named Wu Li, a most gifted archer -- so gifted, in fact, that by the time Wu Li was 21, he was known, far and wide, as the best archer in all of China.

One day, upon returning home from yet another tournament victory, Wu Li found himself rushing through a marketplace and bumping into an old man carrying a basket of potatoes which went flying everywhere as the old man fell to the ground with a thud.

"Old man!" shouted Wu Li, "Get out of my way! Don't you know who I am?"

The old man looked up, squinting. "Oh yes... I know who you are. You are Wu Li, second best archer -- all of China."

"Second best?" bellowed the Wu Li "Second? Surely, you humor me, grandfather. I am the best. Everyone knows there is no one in all of China who can beat me."

The old man, slowly gathering his potatoes, nodded his head. "Oh yes, you are great, my young friend. But there is... ONE... even greater than you!"

Wu Li laughed. "Surely you jest, old man. Tell me, who is this impostor you speak of? Where does he live?"

"Oh," replied the old man as if entering a temple. "His name... is Master Po. He lives many miles to the North -- high atop Mt. Chan."

"Then I will go and challenge him,' putting an end to all of this nonsense once and for all."

Pushing past the old man, Wu Li marched off into the distance

For 30 days and nights he traveled -- through wind and fire, lightning, and hail. When he arrived at the foot of the mountain, Wu Li could not believe his eyes. The mountain was sheer rock, covered with ice, and pitched at a 90 degree angle straight up to the sky.

A lesser man would have ended his journey right then and there. But not Wu Li. He climbed. And when he was done climbing, he climbed some more.

On the 8th day of his ascent, the crest of the mountain now visible through the mist, Wu Li reached over head, found a small outcrop of rock, pulled himself up, stood to his full height, and found himself looking at what appeared to be a little old man sitting under a blanket.

Wu Li opened his mouth to speak, but it was the old man who spoke. "Welcome wayfarer, I... have... been... expecting you."

Wu Li took a breath. "I AM WU LI -- best archer in all of China. I challenge you."

The old man, motionless as the mountain, smiled, bowed, then looked to the sky.

"Very well... as you are my guest, please, my friend... go first."

Wu Li grabbed an arrow from his quiver, notched it on the string of his bow, closed one eye, tilted his head, drew the string back and, with all his might, let the arrow fly.

As the arrow neared the top of its flight, Wu Li pulled a second from his quiver and shot it high, halving the first in two and, in a rapid succession of ten, continued, each arrow splitting the one before it, arrow halves landing in a perfect circle around Master Po and, upon entering the ground, made the ancient sound of Om.

"Hmm," said the Master. "Impressive, most impressive. Now, it is my turn."

Reaching behind him (where there would have been a quiver if he had a quiver), he pulled what would have been an arrow (if he had an arrow), notched what would have been a string on what would have been a bow, closed one eye, pulled slowly back, paused for what seemed like eternity, and then -- in slow motion pantomime -- let go.

Smiling ever so slightly, he turned to his challenger.

"You, my friend," explained Master Po, "have mastered the art of shooting with a bow and arrow. I, on the other hand, have mastered the art of shooting without a bow and arrow."

(Adapted from an old Zen story)

New book by Prem Rawat: Splitting the Arrow

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at September 27, 2016 01:09 AM


Ah, I said with appreciation, I see what you didn't do there.

Posted by: Mac in SA [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 26, 2016 07:52 PM

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Storytelling at Work is a blog about the power of personal storytelling – why it matters and what you can do to more effectively communicate your stories – on or off the job. Inspired by the book of the same name, the blog features "moment of truth" stories by the author, Mitch Ditkoff, plus inspired rants, quotes, and guest submissions by readers.

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"The world is not made of atoms," wrote the poet, Muriel Rukeyser. "It's made of stories." Learn how to discover, honor, and unpack the stories of yours that show up "on the job" in Mitch Ditkoff's award-winning 2015 book, Storytelling at Work.
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