Whenever I hear people say things like “golf can teach you a lot about life” my eyes start to glaze over and I have to stifle a scream. I suspect that true devotees could say a lot of the same worshipful things about gardening, croquet, or Disney figurine collecting. So although I think there are a lot of good to be said for Golf in the Kingdom, when I read lines like “Golf is the new yoga of the supermind” I start to wonder if we haven’t hit it a little too far into the weeds.
My psychological training probably drives part of my reaction. I always thought humanistic psychology (Be here now, stay in touch with your feelings, etc. at an overly simplistic level) had some value, but got needlessly tangled up in abstraction. I sometimes felt like I was drowning in feathers when I read it, and when I tried to strip it down I often wondered exactly what was there.
Michael Murphy, the author of Golf in the Kingdom and The Kingdom of Shivas Irons, is one of the cofounders of Esalen Institute, a premier humanistic center. The books blend his interests in golf and the human potential movement.
Through the character of Shivas Irons, Murphy explores golf, human potential, and mysticism. The Kingdom of Shivas Irons is the only golf book I know with a bibliography ranging from golf classics by Bernard Darwin and Bobby Jones to books on life after death.
Commit to the shot, forget the shot that you just hit into the bunker, be the ball (with apologies to Chevy Chase in Caddyshack). That’s the problem with humanistic psych. When you start to talk about it, you risk getting overly serious or silly.
On the other hand, we all know how hard it can be to be in touch with the course and our bodies, let the swing flow naturally, and have the world narrow to just us, the ball, and the shot in front of us. That’s when we play the best, that’s when we’re in the zone, that’s the “Be here now” of humanistic psychology.
If we could live in the moment, stay immersed in the here and now, accept life as it is and just deal with what life throws our way we presumably could live more effectively.
Kind of play it as it lies. Maybe golf can say a lot about life. I know I hit it into the weeds nearly every day.
Pardon me while I go into my closet and scream. Shivas Irons claims it helps with finding true gravity, you know.
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