I promised I'd post on some of the ways that marksmanship contributes to our spirituality. I've previously blogged about the fact that marksmanship is, in some ways, integrated into our concept of Torah. My way of thinking about it is that there are many ways to study Torah, we each have our own learning styles, and for some people marksmanship is a great medium to better Torah understanding. So here are my thoughts on what we learn about Torah from using "open" sights.
Open sights, or as some people call them, "iron sights", is a generic term for a firearm that uses aiming posts attached to the gun as opposed to a telescopic, lens based system. In other words, if the firearm doesn't have a scope mounted on it, its aimed using iron sights, one at the back of the barrel and one up front near the muzzle. I compete with iron sights exclusively.
One of the "secrets" of becoming an accurate shooter is to never focus your eyes on the target. No, that's not a typo. To be a great shooter, you focus your eye on the front sight of the firearm. The rear sight (closest to you) and the target will be blurry and out of focus if you are doing it correctly. The picture above is the sight picture I strive to have when my 10m air pistol goes off. I'm sure to score a 10 when it does, even though my eye is not focused on the target at all. In another post I'll discuss why front-sight focus is so important, but if you recall any of your high school geometry you can probably figure it out on your own. If you're not a marksman, just trust me that when the eye focuses on the target, instead of the front sight, the shot will almost always miss the mark.
But front-sight focus is not easy. Even the best shooters report a constant, subconscious desire to look and focus directly on the target. Of course, its human nature to want to see and appreciate your goal in front of you. In fact, its human nature to think we can just look at our goal directly, keep it in focus, and somehow will it into happening. Maintaining front-sight focus is a constant battle for marksmen. It requires faith in your understanding of the art of shooting, and to reject your instinct to focus on the target.
To me, the front sight is like Torah. We all have targets in life, whether to be a better person, to be successful in business, to relax more, to raise wonderful children, etc. But if we just look at the target, and focus on the target, it will never happen. Only G-d can will something into existence. You might wake up tomorrow and say, "I want to be a better person," and truly have that desire, but the desire is meaningless. What is a better person? How do you become a better person? What is a good person? The fact is as human beings, we can never really know these answers with clarity and sharpness. Our targets should all have gray edges that are slightly out of focus. Each of us have eyes that will see the target slightly differently.
But Torah is our front sight. If we try to stay focused on Torah, and accept the fact that our targets will be blurry, if we pull the trigger with Torah in focus and properly aligned, the shot will naturally hit our target all on its own. Torah will give you some idea of what a good person is, how to become a better one, how to raise children, how to be successful, but it won't provide you with perfect clarity on what those targets really look like. But if you focus on Torah, and try to have clarity with Torah, and allow those targets to blur into the background, your life will naturally arrive at those destinations you wanted. There are things in Torah that are counter to some of our instincts, counter to things that that secular society tells us. But if we focus on the front sight, keep the sights aligned and trust our shot will reach its mark by shooting in that manner, all our shots will be in the X-ring.
And with that, Shabat Shalom!