In the charming movie, Vitus, a young boy is a piano prodigy. This becomes very important to his parents, so much so that they seem to forget that he is still a young boy. Too young to understand his gift, he wants to be a young boy. His parents’ obsession becomes annoying, so he fakes a head injury to seem to lose his talent and free him to do fun things, like learn to fly airplanes with his grandfather. Eventually he takes flight in a real airplane, and flies to the villa of a famous piano virtuoso, whom he has met before. She has told him: “don’t play for them, don’t play for yourself, play for the music“. He is ready, and he does.
Golf is a ritualized hunt. The players rendevous with their weapons, then advance, spread out, approach the target, make the kill, and then re-group. And because success in hunting has been so vital and necessary in our history, hunting skill is highly valued and cultivated. Skill is doing something with precision, practiced technique, and intelligent efficiency. Doing more with less. And so it is also in golf. The best swing is the most graceful, the most rhythmic, the most simple. The best score is the least number of shots.
We talk about inclusion and equality, but we love competition. We are driven to seek, promote, and celebrate the best among us. We create competition to know who is best. We love sorting out winners and losers, as cruel as it can be for the losers, we are more than willing to tolerate the agony of loss for the losers. We gravitate to excellence, we give it special status, we dislike losers. We invite winners to feel superior, we encourage them to feel proud, we help them feel entitled.
And then, we call them on it. They walk the plank.
There is the Drama of the Gifted Child, (Alice Miller 1979). Over time the gifted are more and more loved for their gift, less and less for themselves as persons. Paradoxically, success becomes more and more diminishing. The Gift usurps the Self.
Tiger Woods is a prodigy, and a winner. He has great skill, developed with hard, diligent effort. Initially, he probably played for his parents, then he played for his fans, and then he played for himself. Whomever he may have betrayed, he did not betray excellence. That is a gift for us, and for that he deserves our admiration.
Play for the music.