The Ryder Cup and Learned Treatises

Some claim golf is a metaphor for life. Even more, golf is often explained as a valid path to enlightenment, Buddhism, God, faith or whatever. Movies such as The Legend of Bagger Vance and Seven Days In Utopia highlight this interconnection. Tongue in cheek, there’s even a website that highlights AA’s Twelve Steps to golf.

Of course, there are books. Michael Murphy’s 1972 novel, “Golf in the Kingdom,” is practically a sacred text. It’s about a young man, modeled on Mr. Murphy himself, who on his way to an ashram in India stops off in Scotland, where his life is transformed by an encounter with a golf pro and mystic named Shivas Irons, who knows as much about Pythagoras and the Hindu scriptures as he does about hitting a high fade.

For those with a spiritual core, golf is positioned as finding God in every moment. This requires the belief that God willfully inserts himself into human history. This theory attempts to persuade one that a vital, energetic, and engaging God is not indifferent to struggling humanity.

Of course, the above approach appears untrue if one watched this past weekend’s Ryder Cup. Wherever God was, he wasn’t intertwined with the United States team. In essence, since the Americans never showed up. As a result, neither did faith. The US team got pummeled into oblivion in Paris. In fact, the US Ryder Cup team has not won on European soil in nearly 25 years.

So, what happened? Quite simply, you can’t read faith. You have to live it. In his book The Winning Way in Golf and Life, Morris Pickens quotes, “The key to golf is playing one shot at a time. The key to life is living in the moment.” Jim Elliot, a young missionary martyr who was slain by Auca warriors on the banks of Ecuador’s Curaray River in 1956, expressed a similar life lesson.

Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”

I close with a story from Anthony de Mellow.

When the guru sat down to worship each evening, the ashram cat would get in the way and distract the worshippers. So, he ordered that the cat be tied during evening worship.

After the guru died, the cat continued to be tied during evening worship. And when the cat expired, another cat was brought to the ashram so that it could be duly tied during evening worship.

Centuries later, learned treatises were written by the guru’s scholarly disciples on the liturgical significance of tying up a cat while worship is performed.

Moral of the story? Like many of us, the United States Ryder Cup team continues to live in old learned treatises.



Categories: Life Lessons

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