Teach yourself Archery

Terence Blacker discovers the perfect book to guide you on life's difficult journey
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The Independent Culture
THE SECRET'S out. Now that Geri Halliwell, better known as Bolshy Spice, has been seen carrying a copy of M Scott Peck's Further Along the Road Less Travelled (The Unending Journey Towards Spiritual Growth), it has become widely known that those of us in life's fast lane invariably have our own special little book of spiritual guidance that we keep with us at all times.

So, during those rare moments of calm between board meetings, power lunches, appearances before select committees, off-the-record briefings and royal premieres, we can turn to a relevant page in our personal vade- mecum. The right meditation, insight or pensee will serve to remind us of our essential ordinariness as the storms of everyday life rage around us.

Each celebrity has his or her own favourite. George Michael refuses to leave home without a copy of Samuel Smiles's Victorian classic Self-Help in his back pocket. Alastair Campbell swears by How to Win Friends and Influence People. Glenn Hoddle prefers When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: The Christian Footballer's Handbook.

My own personal handbook - my emotional crutch, if you like - is a relatively obscure Buddhist text called Zen and the Art of Archer - a text which, for reasons that escape me, has recently been mailed to members of the Central Office Committee currently deliberating on who should be nominated as Conservative candidate for Mayor of London.

I'm not saying that the little pearls of advice to be found on every page of Zen and the Art of Archer will transform your life, merely that its quiet, profound wisdom has helped me through the various passages of my life.

A man is as big as he feels. The Archer is a small man, 5ft 2in in his stockinged feet. Yet somehow, to his followers, he seems several inches taller. How does he do this? He squares his shoulders and bounces a lot. When he talks, he never allows smallness to play a part in his sentences. If he is to write a book, he will explain how it must go through 23 drafts.

The man who looks back will never reach his destination. When the Archer was a sprinter, breaking several world records and once beating a cheetah in an 80-yard dash across the savannah in Kenya, he had one simple training principle. Never look back. If you look back while sprinting, you will invariably fall over. In the race of life, those who look back, dwelling in an entirely negative, unhelpful and frankly nit-picking way on things that may (or may not) have happened in the past, are losers and has-beens.

Not so long ago, the Archer's godson Linford Christie was transformed from a county-level plodder into the fastest man on earth. How? By never looking back.

There is no such thing as middle. Although the Archer thinks big, talks big, is big, he will always find time for small people. When he goes walkabout in London, where, by the way, he's fantastically popular, ordinary folk will hail him as he passes by, saying "Oroight there, Arch, me ole mate, me ole cock sparrer? Don't you worry abaht the toffs givin' ya grief. We all love ya, mate. You're one of us, you are."

It is the middle people - chippy backbench MPs, envious journalists, whingeing, nay-saying, chattering-class liberals - whom the Archer ignores. When they ask him a question he does not like, he looks through them or over their heads. They do not exist for him, and therefore they do not exist.

The truth that a man feels in his heart is the only truth that matters. Shortly after the Archer had turned down a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition for his largely unsung work alleviating famine, removing the nuclear threat and comforting little orphans all over the world, he told his best friend Nelson Mandela that the secret of his success was, above all, to tell the truth as he saw it. Then he returned to his work replacing the ozone layer.

Miles Kington returns next week.