Can you extract the deeper meaning of this parable?
Once upon time, in a far-away “Queendom,” there lived a wise and powerful Queen …
One day, the Queen decided that she needed to select a new Captain of the Archers. To do this, she devised a contest that would reveal the Archer best suited to lead all the Archers in the land.
On the appointed day, all the great Archers of the land – and there were many – traveled to a rolling meadow near the Queen’s castle. There, the Archers found the following set up for the contest:
- Thousands of targets of all different sizes on the far side of the meadow
- A line burned in the grass
- Several men in robes who were to be judges of the contest
Each Archer was given 12 arrows. The Queen then spoke to the Archers, providing simple instructions for the contest: “The first Archer to hit the target without crossing the line will be Captain of Our Archers and shall receive land, a home and 1,000 pieces of gold.” Because the instructions were a bit vague, the Archers glanced at each other, with questions in their eyes, but dared not say anything because they knew the Queen could be cruel when she so chose..
The Queen then said loudly, “To your marks! Get Set! Go!!”
Off the Archers flew to different spots in the meadow – all of them except for one Archer, who remained behind. Some Archers immediately took aim at the easiest targets. Others took aim at the largest targets. Others positioned themselves on the flattest spot on the meadow to shoot. Really, there were as many strategies as there were Archers.
One after the other Archer hit targets in the bullseye. Alas, each time an Archer hit a bullseye he would turn around to look at the judges who just slowly shook their heads, indicating that the Archer had not won the contest with that shot.
After a while, several Archers began to believe that the only way they would win the contest was by hitting the right target by pure luck. To them, this seemed like a profoundly silly way for the Queen to select her Captain of the Archers. They became cynical and discouraged. Most Archers ran out of arrows fairly quickly.
The Archer who remained behind with the Queen decided to take a different approach. Once the other contestants had run off, the lone Archer asked the Queen a simple question: “Your Highness, if you please, of the thousands of targets, is the one in particular I would need to hit to win the contest?”
Much to the lone Archer’s surprise, the Queen said nothing but pointed to an obscure target on the far side of the meadow in a small niche between a rock and a tree.
The lone Archer did not, however spring immediately to action. He knew he only had 12 arrows and wanted to ensure he would hit the winning target with the arrows he had. He examined the ground to find the best spot with the most direct line-of-sight to the target. He carefully gauged the wind by observing the leaves on the trees and watching the other Archers shoot.
The lone Archer then drew out an arrow, carefully took aim … and missed the target.
It is important to note here that the lone Archer was not, in fact, the most skilled Archer of the group.
Regardless, the lone Archer thought about what he learned from his first shot and then shot again … and missed again! It took him 4 more arrows before he finally hit the target.
After the lone Archer hit the target, trumpets blared, the judges stopped the proceedings, and the Queen approached to award the lone Archer with her Captain’s medallion.
Several of the other Archers were quite frustrated and angry at all this. Some thought the winning Archer was just lucky … others thought he must have cheated. Almost all knew very well that he was not the most skilled Archer.
In almost one voice they asked, in indignation, why the winning Archer won the contest and how the contest proved he would make the best Captain of the Queen’s Archers.
The Queen answered thusly: “We (the royal “we”) don’t need Our Captain of the Archers to be the most skilled Archer. We need him to be the wisest and the boldest man … who knows archery. Because this lone Archer was both the boldest and wisest of you all, he will now be Captain of the Archers … and will receive land, a home and 1,000 pieces of gold.”
The new Captain of the Archers just stood there and thought to himself, “Wow. That was a lot easier than I thought!”