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Thursday, April 07, 2016

 

Shadows

I have observed, both introspectively, in my own mind & soul, and extrospectively, in the mind & souls of my golfing partners, both frequent & itinerate, that Golf is the only activity, inwhere men will willingly share not just feelings, not just exultation & gloating, but also desperation, frustration, disappointment & chagrin, but also the events and advents of failures, in excruciating detail & pitiless specificity.
I speak mainly of Duffers, of course . . . I have played with skilled golfers, but it seems to me that there is some tipping point on the array of golf skill where the player of ability begins instead to blame exogenous causes, instead, all as part-&-parcel of the Positive Mental Attitude high-level competition requires, if you see how I mean.  
Much has been written about the character-revealing nature of Golf , the misapprehension being that futility at Golf has some mollifying effect upon the otherwise unbearably & unjustifiably confident, or that scrupulous praxis of the vast compendium of unwritten golf rules makes for highly moral behaviour, on & off the course, or that pictish adherence to golfing protocols & etiquette enhances the golfer's civility.
The great P.G. Wodehouse observed, "No other human endeavor so quickly reveals the cloven hoof".
The sad truth, simply, is that golf does not improve a man, any more than does accounting, carpentry, or fish-mongering.
That being said, going back to my original point, Golf does apparently provide an outlet for venting one's anxieties and disappointment in one's unmet expectations. After every shot, the duffer has a well rehearsed litany of his failings, and failures in technique. It seems the sharing of these inadequacies is some quotient of the enjoyment these duffer's derive from an activity that apparently causes them so much sorrow.
It would be good, I have felt, if in modern commerce, we could encourage such openness with failures, and reward it with empathy, instead of the star-chamber please-explain meetings commonly held to allot blame. In the old days, at conventions and seminars, after-hours, we would sit around drinking and tell war-stories about our work environments -- just exactly the same sort of sharing in Golf I have described, if you see how I mean . . . nowadays, not so much . . . 
Golfers are perpetually disappointed, even at the highest levels . . . Ben Hogan told of a dream he had, where he made 17 hole-in-ones, then lipped out the 18th, and so woke up angry . . . Some talk about golf being a game of misses, meaning the management of a string of failures till success is achieved anyway. 
There's that old quote from Churchill that "Success is the ability to go from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm ".     
I read somewhere recently:
Even the most impassioned Romantic defenses of poetry reinscribe a sense of the insufficiency of poems. Percy Bysshe Shelley: “the most glorious poetry that has ever been communicated to the world is probably a feeble shadow of the original conceptions of the poet.” 
Every Golfer visualizes the shot first -- that's why they're standing there with the 1000-yard stare trying to smoke a cigarette like Arnold Palmer, before they hitch their pants up and muscle the ball into a water hazard -- and that's the aspect that's taken sometimes as a secular religiosity (especially in conjunction with the constant confessionals), but it's something different , something higher, nobler, deeper, more consequential  than that: the optimism & recollection of success tinctured by the pessimism & recollection of failure, embodied by the feeble shadow of Duffer's Golf.


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