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Hudsonblick 20: Be the Bullet

Die unregelmäßige Kolumne unseres Übersee-Korrespondenten feiert ihre 20. Ausgabe. Aus diesem Anlass ändert Charles seinen Namen. Warum? Weil er’s kann!

Wäre dieser Artikel, der auch mit „Zen und die Kunst des Schießens“ übertitelt sein könnte, auf deutsch, würde er sicher eine lange Diskussion auslösen. Mal sehen, was er in seiner Originalsprache bewirkt…

Be the Bullet

In previous columns, I“™ve linked to some stereotypical examples of gun culture. They“™re easy to find, and making jokes about them is like… well, it“™s easy to do. If you“™re looking for stereotypes, this is a subculture that won“™t let you down. In some quarters, they fetishize the physical gun. In others they brandish the gun as a badge of their willingness to mix blood and soil. For some, the words „God“ and „guns“ just go hand-in-hand.

Suffice to say, I“™m not enamored with every facet of gun culture. The gun is not who I am. It is not my reason for being. I just like the noise it makes. I enjoy the feel of the destructive force in my hand. I enjoy shooting guns the way a teenager enjoys smashing beer bottles. And the beer bottle-smashing teenager does not care to be lectured to by chest-pounding demagogues (or overprotective mothers, for that matter).

He does not object, however, to playing beer bottle-smashing games, and this might be his salvation. This way, as the initial thrill of igniting gunpowder fades, the joy of exercising a new skill can take its place. Otherwise, the gradual desensitization to firepower would demand ever larger and more explosive spectacle. This way lies madness (which, granted, could be pretty fun).

Good shooting starts with physical elements: the stance, the grip, the trigger roll, but once your body learns these, the challenge becomes mental. It becomes a type of meditation: relaxation, breathing, and mantra, all expressed in a precision blaze of lead. Practitioners report time distortion, visual anomalies, and even out-of-body experience. To a casual reader, these phenomenons could be from an LSD diary or a Sufi text.

The mystical experience and the psychedelic experience purport to pull aside a veil, to reveal knowledge of a world behind the world. Though not a land of strobing fractals or divine pantheons, these gun gurus have stepped into a place where everyday perception and focus do not reach. In this realm, the gun is a mere object rather than an idol, a means, not an end in itself. The distractions of political rants and gadget-happy assault equipage are left by the wayside. For an aspiring shooter with more interest in mind than machismo, this is the way.

„Bow, arrow, goal and ego all melt into one another, so that I can no longer separate them. And even the need to separate has gone.“
— Eugen Herrigel, Zen in der Kunst des Bogenschießens

Links:

A podcast about writing, teaching, personal growth… and shooting, of course.

Gun owner protects his favorite dollie (2,43 MB)

Apropos the last Hudsonblick! This month“™s New York magazine reports:

Contra Freud and pro common sense, much of Authentic Happiness author Martin Seligman“™s research suggests that rehashing events that enraged you long ago tends to produce depression rather than sweet closure and relief.

I“™ll drink to that!

25 Kommentare

  1. 01

    Whenever i hear or read the words „gun“, „guru“ and „meditation“, i think ‚equilibrium‘, a movie i thoroughly enjoyed due to its ‚gun kata‘, a form of martial arts that puts guns to best use.. albeit utterly fictional and far from being possible in reality, it nontheless made me feel cool just to have watched that movie.

    I felt dangerous afterwards. Godlike. Dumb.

    On the few occasions i was entitled to wield an actual gun, i was.. thrilled.
    ‚Look at me.. i can kill.. i am death.. and look at this beauty. So cold and shiny, i feel.. great!‘

    In a nutshell, that was how i felt.

    People do have stereotypes. Especially about that gun- toting white boy who never made it to third base with the girls.. possibly not even to first base.
    But not everyone having a gun or using a gun is just another lowlife enjoying the sheer power of a gun to actually kill shit.

    It’s like with kung fu and a bar brawl.
    With the brawl it’s all about blowing the snot out of people, animals and whatnot.. it’s straightforward and.. stupid.
    With kung fu.. it’s art.

    „Zen and firearms“

    I like it.

  2. 02

    I personally never looked at it this way (I never touched a real gun as far as I remember), but it makes some sense. If only it weren’t that loud. Loud isn’t very Zen, is it?

  3. 03
  4. 04
    Carlito

    wtf, yes, that’s exactly what I mean!

    It’s funny, that „godlike“ feeling. I was in a match the other day, shooting a series of silhouettes against the clock. I was fine until the one-handed round. Something about shooting one-handed still totally makes me feel like a god: aiming down my arm, remorselessly dealing precision blasts of lead. Funny though, I didn’t score as well after I let myself drift into that feeling. Not that I cared!

  5. 05

    My buddy Te refers to that feeling as ‚the beast‘. This ‚beast‘ is never precise, it’s open and smiling and all it does is enjoy what mayhem it causes.
    Back when he was in the Bundeswehr, he was a great shot, calm and like a machine, reaching a calmness that he later on deeply missed.

    And he too told me that when he gave into that feeling, he scored less but enjoyed it more.
    Somehow i can envision him drooling while just holding a gun.

    Is it a dick- thing ?
    I don’t think so.
    Possibly it’s something in our genes..

  6. 06
    Dennis

    Zen just means sitting down, tearing down the wall, that seems to seperate you from the world an to become part of it.
    So it doesn’t matter whether Zen is practiced in a silent temple, a childrens birthday or on a battlefield.

    That’s why Zen and Martial Arts can go hand in hand, you just erase your consciousness and act without thinking.

    When I was using guns during my military service I didn’t feel thrilled, I didn’t feel like a god; I was just disgusted!

    And despite all you’re writing: If you’re just turned on by shooting a gun, if it makes you feel great and powerful then this has nothing to do with any Zen-like way of living! It is pure machismo and if you think, that you’re already beyond that, you’re awfully wrong and haven’t even started to go the way…

  7. 07

    Let me put it this way: all people respond to guns. Some do it this way, others do it in other ways. Welcome to makind.

    To some, a gun clears their mind of all the nonsense that normally inhabits it. Zen.
    Machismo ? Ever considered that the situation makes us respond in that way and not always our personality ?
    And it is certainly nice to know that you, Dennis, are concerned with our state of mind.

    To some a gun is a focus, to others a fetish.

  8. 08
    Carlito

    Hi Dennis,
    Relaxed precision is definitely a contrast to the joyful blasting, not the same thing! So basicly I agree with you. Of course, disgust is not a very Buddhist response to an object either. The gun is an empty object. The disgust is in the mind.

    Carlito
    (not a buddhist, but I play one on Spreeblick)

  9. 09

    very interesting! kind of new movement – maybe…

  10. 10

    Uhm, as long as that movement doesn’t want the right to bear arms whenever… oh, I guess we have that already… ;)

  11. 11
    Carlito

    smart ass! ;-)

  12. 12
    Dennis

    Zen is not just about clearing the mind, although it’s a part of it.

    The point I wanted to make is this:
    There can be Zen in shooting firearms, as well as in everything else.
    But most of what I’ve read has nothing transcendent in it, it’s just basic emotion and I’m fine with that.
    But what I don’t like is when someone tries to make some important experience out of this basic thing and labels it Zen without knowing, what Zen exactly means.

    Mankind started as hunters and during the last few thousand years we haven’t changed that much biologically.
    So it’s just naturally if people respond to weapons in that way.
    But if you do, don’t mistake it as anything else as it is.

    Dennis (who is not a buddhist either)

  13. 13

    i have to think about it. because until know i ve nver thought of a gun as an empty object. weird

  14. 14
    Carlito

    Yeah, we were talking about two different things there, sorry if they seemed to slop together. I’ve certainly found it necessary to put down „the beast“ when it’s time to really focus.

    And I totally agree about the proliferation of „Zen and the Art of X“ BS. There’s a fascination with the mystical experience that everyone wants a part of. I wouldn’t explicitly say that shooting has been a „Zen“ experience for me, since I don’t have first-hand knowledge of such a thing, but I am impressed by some of the parallels between shooting and other meditative practices.

    I found this when I was writing the article. Apparently, even the original „Zen and the Art of..“ guy has his critics:
    http://www.nanzan-u.ac.jp/SHUBUNKEN/publications/jjrs/pdf/586.pdf

  15. 15
    Jens

    My own experiences with guns were in the Bundeswehr. Mostly, because everything is so regulated about the use of the gun, there is not much fun you can have with it. And I think, fun is not what you are supposed to have with it, really. Guns are not a toy. They serve a definite purpose and whatever you do, this purpose remains. I think this is very well demonstrated in the movie „American Beauty“. While on the one hand a gun is used as a means of satisfaction of some kind, the effect of desensitisation is very dangerous.

    You have to differentiate between shooting guns at artificial targets on a shooting range and shooting some animals, though. While I can see shooting at a shooting range as a nice way to reach control over your body and sensation, I think hunting is not my thing at all. Killing is just not a hobby for me. And there are only small steps to take, once you grab one of these things.

  16. 16

    rehashing events that enraged you long ago tends to produce depression rather than sweet closure and relief.

    thank you for that… :-)

  17. 17

    I dont want to be hunted. All these guns and weapons and crap are shit.

    Sorry bout this nasty entry. … Fuck this industry.

  18. 18
    Carlito

    It wouldn’t be a thread about guns if someone wasn’t being nasty! It’s an issue that courts strong opinions, I guess, or maybe we’re just not exposed to many nuanced views.

    For my part, I’m generally in favor of letting people do what they want, and have fun how they want to, as long as they’re being safe and responsible. So if you’re having fun shooting in a safe and responsible manner, more power to you. Same for fucking!

  19. 19

    Hunting – that is the item – or not?

    Animals?
    People?
    You and your cat?
    Underfucked and overpaid?

  20. 20

    There is no responsible way of shooting, never.

  21. 21

    You ve have never been seen a Gewehrmündung in front of your eyes.

  22. 22
    Carlito

    I think I see… you’re just talking about hunting? Ethically speaking, that’s really a far cry from shooting paper. I’ll save my views on that for another occasion.

  23. 23
    trip2o

    please consult ‚the doors of perception and heaven and hell‘ by aldous huxley. zen, guns, fucking, all the same.

  24. 24
    Carlito

    I’ll definitely check that out, thanks for the reference.

  25. 25

    All I felt, by using a gun, was respect of the power and force behind it. I haven’t used a gun in years, yet I remember the feeling when I pulled the trigger. I knew I had the power to kill a person right in my hands and when I pulled the trigger my heart was running wild and I had nothing but respect for this force in my hands.

    A gun should be always used wisely… that is my opinion on it.

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