Essays & Arrows

I recently learned that the English word Essay is French in origin and it means “to attempt”.

An online dictionary has these definitions of the word Essay.

  1. a short literary composition dealing with a subject analytically or speculatively
  2. an attempt or endeavour; effort
  3. a test or trial

I heard this definition recently, and I like it best, personally: an Essay is an attempt to understand by writing.

Attempting to understand The Second Arrow

I’m not sure I understand the concept of The Second Arrow very well, so I’ll attempt to better understand it by writing my thoughts on it. If anyone reading this knows the origin and the application in today’s world, let me know.

There’s a line of thinking from Buddhism called the second arrow. It has to do with suffering. Self imposed suffering, in particular. They way I heard it is something like this:

Let’s say you’re walking through the woods, and you get shot with an arrow in your leg. Then another. Would the second hurt as much as the first?

It’s said that we can’t always control the first arrow, sometimes life throws an arrow at you. Often, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. That second arrow is shot by and it hits, ourselves. How we react to the first, can prevent the second.

Here’s an example. For a bunch of reasons I’ve delayed this latest issue. I was focused on other things in my free time, and I have some anxiety that creeps up to derail any creative process I enjoy. So I am late with this issue. My first arrow.

I start asking myself things like “why can’t you focus”, “you enjoy writing these email, and the discussions that follow, what’s wrong with you” and other self judgmental things. The Second Arrow.

When there’s a mess around the house that my kids made, I think damn it, they left this mess! First Arrow. Then I think, how do they not know to clean up after themselves? Where’d I go wrong as a parent. Second Arrow.

Pain is unavoidable (sometimes you miss a deadline, sometimes there’s a mess from someone else you have to clean up), but suffering is optional (I suck at writing my newsletter, and parenting too).

The Buddhists recommend sitting with these feelings, and observing how they make you feel in your body. Exploring those emotions.

The Modern Stoics will say you can’t control the outside world (First Arrow) you can only control your reaction to it (Second Arrow).

So, that’s where I am with my understanding of the second arrow. I have work to do to understand it more, and that’s OK. I’m not going to shoot myself with an arrow because I suck at second arrowing, lol.

If you got this far, thanks for reading along and letting me understand better by writing it out.

Some stuff I’ve done recently

I decided to dust off (and update) an old blog of mine. It’ll be where I post things about creativity, and put my drawings.

Two recent posts:

My personal blog has a couple new posts. One on a way I’m managing trying to learn about and create illustrations, and another which is a collection of doodles.

Take care,