In our exploration of mastery here, one of the things we’ve been looking at is the long list of distractions of the egoic mind. These distractions are significant because the only way to play golf at our highest and best is when our attention is so focused on the matter at hand it excludes all else. That is, when your mind is elsewhere it cannot be here.
Back in March, I wrote in, “Snarky Sniping,” about how our egos wait in a constant vigil for the anticipated “attack thoughts” of others. That vigil is a disruption to our concentration in the moment. It frequently takes the form of fear of embarrassment, “If I choke on this shot I am going to look so bad.” And I wrote about how the way out of this morass is to come to realize that we are not who we think we are.
Who we think we are is our ego fabrications, the consequence of a lifetime of human experience. What we miss in this reactionary way of life is our peaceful spiritual essence that underlies the ego’s façade.
So if you can slowly get to the point of actualizing that understanding, you get to stand in a place where the slings and arrows of others are at least understandable and less and less of a distracting threat, both our egos’ projected ones and the actual ones.
These are spiritual ideas that you will find in most teachings. They weren’t conceived out of a need to get better at golf, but it turns out that the real-time demands of golf are a great proving ground for their efficacy.
And there are also religious ideas that bring very effective help in this arena too.
If you haven’t been following it, Bubba Watson, really “stepped in it” last week. Because he wanted to become a more well-rounded person and experience other cultures, he decided to go to Paris to play in the French Open. It did not go well.
First of all, when you first experience a new culture, even a first-world culture like France’s, if there’s not “culture shock,” per se, there is a noticeable shakeup of your normal reality. Traffic signs are different, the commercial tapestry doesn’t include the retail and restaurant names that you’re used to and you’re rendered more irritable by trying to adjust to a six-hour time difference. And that’s just the baseline stuff.
Bubba noticed that there were also stark differences in the way that the Europeans run the operations of their tournaments. There were cell phones and cameras which are forbidden in the U.S. There were not roped off walkways from each green to the next tee as there are in the U.S. There was not the level of security creating buffers from the gallery that there are in the U.S. In a post-round interview, he delineated these things in a matter-of-fact way and truthfully said that he missed home.
The problem is that that matter-of-fact recitation didn’t come off that way in print. It came off as whiney and whimpering. And then he exacerbated it by demonstrating his profound ignorance of iconic Parisian landmarks: the Eiffel Tower (“the big tower”), the Arc de Triomphe (“the circle I rode around”) and the Louvre (“the place that begins with an ‘L’”).
Well, you would have thought that he had committed an act of treachery and destruction against the state. There was an uproar that continues all these days later. It became an international incident. Chubby Chandler, the super-agent to such European Tour stars as Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood was quoted in The Scotsman saying:
They don’t get it, do they, the Americans? They just don’t get it. They don’t get it because they have everything in America, don’t they? Everything over there is easy for them. There’s a lot of cash to play for. They don’t see any reason why they should play outside America. And then they’ll whinge [whine] about the world rankings. It’s a funny one. They’re different to us. And yet a lot of our guys who go from here to there are not stimulated by playing in America every week, to go from Boston to New York to Chicago, it doesn’t stimulate them. They’d rather be going from Jakarta to Seoul to Valencia, you know what I mean? That’s just the way our guys are brought up. The Americans are brought up to think that America is it. They’re conditioned to that mindset from a very young age.
I saw the interview [with Bubba] and it was quite pathetic how he was. For a grown man to talk like that was quite pathetic. There’s a lot of Bubba Watsons because a lot of them don’t travel. You can’t say that about Tiger. At least Tiger travels. And Phil [Mickelson] started about five years ago. Rory was in America last year and he felt the same way going from New York to Boston to Chicago. He found it hard work, but he didn’t whinge about it. He’s just not doing it any more. He didn’t want to. There was no fun involved. Every week was the same. The Americans like that, though. It’s just two different cultures. They think their tour is the be-all and end-all. They have no idea that in ten years’ time Asia will be bigger than America.
For his part, Bubba missed the cut, did two more days of, one presumes, perfunctory sightseeing and fled back to the comfort of home. Leaving most dismissively thinking, “You can take the hillbilly out of the hills, but you can’t take the hills out of the hillbilly.” And that should have been it. Everybody gets their blows in, Bubba experiences the wrath of the offended, learns from it and that’s the end of it. But it goes on.
This morning someone tweeted to Bubba, shouting in all caps:
SHOW RESPECT FOR OTHERS CULTURE WATSON..YOU GOTTA A LOT TO LEARN..YOU HAVE ZERO CLASS.. WE’RE REALLY PISSED OFF
This goes beyond the fear of attack thoughts, this is pretty much a real, belligerent attack.
To his credit, Bubba tweeted back to his antagonist:
sorry we all make mistakes
So this was a pretty good effort on Bubba’s part to tap into who he really is as a way to stay centered in real life, not just over a golf shot.
And then an hour later he tweeted this:
Romans 12:14 (NIV) 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
And then this:
Trying to a better person!! Psalm 37:24 (NIV) 24 though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.
And so while it is possible to center and comfort yourself with the knowledge that you are not your ego but rather your impervious spiritual essence, it’s also possible, as Bubba did, to take that one step further and get additional comfort from a belief in the hand of God.
And between Bubba and his morning antagonist, I think it’s Bubba who is moving more peacefully down the path. Not bad for a hillbilly.