The Mysterious Game of Golf

The Mysterious Game of Golf

Golf, like any sport, is multidimensional in nature, with the dimensions increasing in proportion to one’s proficiency at the game.   The better you are the harder the game seems, as the margins for error diminish and opportunities for improvement move beyond swing mechanics and into the realms of socialization, inner play and expression.

One of the more obvious facts about golf is that it has become a vehicle for social interaction between people. Players gather together in weekly foursomes or leagues.   Annual outings attract large numbers and all types of players.   Even the weekday single can join a group and enjoy a round with new acquaintances. It is this collective recreational aspect that offers an interesting paradox – an individual sport played with a group.

It has been said that you can tell a lot about a person by playing a round of golf with him or her.   Are they fun or serious?   Do they get mad or take it all in stride?   Are they good company? It is an interesting forum to observe human behavior while trying to manage one’s own; not to mention attempting to play this most difficult of games to a level sufficient to avoid embarrassment and ridicule from your playing partners. Go to any golf course, public or private, and you can see a wide range of players and the psyches they inhabit. At the surface, you see their athletic ability and hand/eye coordination. Beneath it you can peer into their self-confidence, their viewpoint and their personality in a surprisingly holistic way.   Golf is a social game played under psychological duress. Peer pressure and the ability to hold one’s own being paramount in almost every instance.

But while the surrounding psychology can be entertaining, the game still remains the centerpiece of the experience and the activity that must be paid attention to (at least in a cursory fashion) for 18 holes.   And what is the nature of that attention?  As mentioned, most players it seems are concerned with the outward nature of the game.   Score is the lagging indicator of the success or failure of a round, but many leading indicators and symbols of victory are equally important in the minds of many.   A booming drive, a holed putt, a crisp iron shot, a birdie (!). These events- and others – remain in the mind of the average player long after the round is completed because they allow him or her to show their companions a little bit of the skill to which they aspire. Playing a round of golf with friends can be a fun and healthy exercise, but relishing those special moments in a subtly competitive round elevates the experience to a psychological high.   These moments, as they say, are what bring golfers back to play another day.

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Mindfulness meditation is a practice whereby the participant focuses attention on the breath and takes in all that surrounds him or her.   The object is to be fully aware of one’s surroundings while being totally aware of the present moment.   The practice is designed to discard the thoughts of the past and stop concerning oneself with what might happen next.   The present – what is happening at that very minute- is the only reality. In the words of meditation teacher Jack Kornfeld, “the past is history, the future is just fantasy”.   And at it’s best mindfulness relieves stress and affords the practitioner a clear and focused state of mind and a positive outlook on one’s existence.

Played carefully, golf offers the player the opportunity to practice and achieve a meditative effect while still interacting with others and enjoying all of the social benefits the game brings.   The very rhythm of the game encourages this. Shots are played individually with long periods in between while players maneuver to their ball for the next one. It is this juxtaposition of short periods of focus followed by longer periods of downtime that brings the mindful player into view. Consider the playing of a shot – a period of about 30-40 seconds. Many average players use that time to review their swing mechanics, think about what their playing partners are saying about him or her, or any number of infinite variations.   By contrast, the mindful player uses that 30-40 second period to think only about the shot at hand. Surrounding information is absorbed – the lie, the wind, the target, etc. – and brings a relaxed focus to the only reality that is on hand, that being the playing of that particular shot.   A pre-shot routine is executed and the ball is hit. Once the shot is completed, the player can soften their focus and enjoy a period of interaction and camaraderie if they so choose as they proceed to their ball.   Once there the process repeats itself and the player again gets inside the shot and embraces the next present reality they face.   The mindful player has broken up his or her round into a series of meditations that bring about an approach that is not about the result, but rather about the process of playing golf in a clear and focused manner.

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One of the key facets of mindful golf is the process of shot planning and selection. As the player approaches the ball, it becomes clear that each time there are circumstances and situations that have to be dealt with individually and effectively.   New data is absorbed and an assessment needs to be made as to how to execute the shot that has the highest probability of success. It is this process that offers the player an opportunity for self expression and brings into focus the level of confidence one has and, as mentioned earlier, the psychology of peer pressure.

In a perfect world, he conception of a shot should be directly proportional to the skill level of the player.   He or she must make a realistic assessment of their repertoire and make the choice that makes sense given the reality of the moment. While physical data must be taken into account, the astute player will also assess their inner state as a key ingredient of the successful shot – namely, are they nervous or relaxed? As an example, one of the important variables to consider under these circumstances is club selection.   The player has the choice of 14 clubs and while conventional wisdom may dictate a certain club for a certain yardage, the full range of data (both physical and psychological) may point to an unconventional play and ball flight. By conceiving the correct holistic approach, the aesthetic player not only has the opportunity to hit a pleasing shot, but also can show their skill and essential nature of their personality to their playing partners, thus creating that satisfying moment that lingers like a beautiful summer evening after the round.

Golf is a beautiful game that is enhanced by its multiple dimensions; social, meditative and aesthetic. Participation in any one of these can bring satisfaction and pleasure to any player, but incorporating all 3 can provide a lasting joy and lifelong fascination to this most mysterious of games.

Fifty Shades of Social Media

I don’t think I am realizing the full power of social media.

I am admittedly ambivalent.   I want to believe the pundits and social gurus that say that we have entered a new age. It sounds fascinating to hear about the endless possibilities of personal change and societal development that can come from the positive aspects of collaboration. It gives me hope for the prospect for an egalitarian society that enriches all.   I want to believe – but I just don’t see it.

By way of full disclosure, let me share my user profile. I am a user of the 3 main social media sites.   I follow around 800 people and have a little over 900 followers on Twitter. I have 500+ connections on LinkedIn and about 200 friends on Facebook. Suffice it to say I am not a power user; but I am around the sites enough to wonder what I am doing there.   I look at my day to day interaction on these sites and have become lost in the dichotomy between the soaring rhetoric and the reality of my experience.

Take Twitter, for example.   If you look at my timeline closely the first thing you will notice is that the vast majority of the tweets are from the vast minority of my universe. The 90/10 rule.

Following closely behind it becomes apparent that the tweets that I see can be categorized fairly easily into three buckets. Maybe it is because of my personal interests – but maybe not. First there are those who, through strategic links, advance their view of current events. What is interesting to note is that almost all of the tweets in this category are from the left side of the political aisle. No judgment there – just an observation.

Second are the mystics and quasi Zen meditative types whose contributions are mostly around mindfulness, spirituality and the inadequacy of our corporeal lives. With a little bit of astrology thrown in for good measure.

The third (and most prevalent) category are the aforementioned New Age management/leadership/social media gurus who impart their wisdom and vision on those of us not able to see the sea changes taking place in the world around us.   Through constantly repeated tweets and itemized lists of helpful tips about how to manage ourselves and our businesses in this brave new world, they are , in fact, pursuing a parallel path – sharing snippets of enlightenment while relentlessly promoting their related book or blog. An electronic medicine show.

LinkedIn is a different animal entirely.   A mystery wrapped in an enigma. Supposedly a forum for professionals to network and share insights, it is patently unclear to me what value it holds. The key is in the definition of “network”. Is it the ability for businesses to target customers? Is it the ability to solicit people for jobs?   When people tell me that they are on LinkedIn for “professional reasons”, I wonder what those reasons are.   Maybe it’s insight gained from the posts. I have posted and read many posts by others and find that the material is generally narrow in scope, many times technical in nature , and tend to center around trends, analytics, or the ubiquitous category of “leadership”. My own included.   As I survey my own contributions and others, I find myself asking myself why did I put this there? It seems pointless because the material is not overtly actionable as one would expect on a business site. . By the way, the posts are also closed in nature. You cannot access them for another platform without logging in to LinkedIn. Hmmm.

As far as the opportunity mining is concerned (either for jobs or customer prospects), I suppose LinkedIn provides some value by enabling an itemized list of contacts and a sortable list of fields, interests and spheres of influence.   But the rules that apply to the offline world also apply here.   You have to find a contact that is interested in what you have to say and offer in order to make a true connection.  LinkedIn provides a place online to develop, at the end of the day, what is nothing more than a mailing list. That is it.

Finally, there is Facebook.

As the largest of the platforms and, ostensibly, the most ambitious in scope and vision, one would anticipate great value and the realization of all the power that social media portends.   My own experience is otherwise.

First of all, like Twitter, the posts on my timeline can be easily categorized.   First there are those who repeatedly share pictures of their kids or their pets (pets are more frequent!). There is nothing more to say about that except that if cuteness is a measure of value than there is plenty of that to go around. But we all know what happens when we eat too many sweets….

Secondly, there are those who never really have anything to actually say, but post “likes” and “share” superficial and obvious slogans dredged from other sites along the shore of the Internet.   These slogans are usually presented in a font that is designed to convey an air of wisdom and calm in the tempest of our daily lives. Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey.   And there is never anything original.

And lastly, there are the political manifestos. Slogans, links and salvos presented to the body politic for consumption and reflection.   On my timeline, these are invariably right wing in nature, bordering on fanatical libertarianism. While the left leaning views on Twitter seem arrogant while mocking the GOP or other conservative groups, the posts on Facebook seem much more ominous; where disagreement is implied as unpatriotic or treasonous – downright un-American.

But while this may all seem self-evident, the thing that really strikes me about Facebook is that those who are doing the posting never take their audience into account. Posts, no matter what category, constitute what is interesting to the person doing the posting.   I rarely find something on Facebook that is put out there in the interest of the collective sharing of information or learning.   It is just not in the DNA.   While Twitter has been criticized for being nothing more than a mini blog, Facebook seems to be essentially that – a place for people to talk about themselves and reveal their own raison d’etre.

I admit that these observations are only my own and could very well be a byproduct of my own mix of followers, contacts and friends.   But I would submit that I am, in fact, not alone in my user experience and that, for some, the world of social media might feel the same.   The irony of it all is that I will be posting this piece on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and it will be a part of my own strange loop of recursive self-reference.   I am biting the hand that feeds me but I will continue to question the validity of the alleged force that is sending us to the next stage of civilization.

#crazy #shutup

Magno Cum Gaudio

Our time together catches the loneliness

And turns the sand right side ‘round

It teaches that the square becomes a circle

That our eyes can bend with time

Our time together brings an astral glance

That seals the open rooms in our workbook

Where the negative space says much more

Than the lunar meditative landscape sees

Our time together is a secular oblation

Where the tithe is scattered in the sea of mercy

And presented to a temporal sound of shifting tides

In the quantum mystery of words at risk

Our time together masks the sudden shrill

Of a gull caught in the current of the indigo

And sailing to the vacuum of the yearning heart

I am waiting for the words that needn’t be heard

Charlie’s Koran

white statues bring the bitter frost

of submerged legacies that were lost

in adulation of words remotely written.

love will not rebuke the absurdity

of reckless streams made hot above

the darkest sky of dreams solely smitten

with what is written not why.

feckless birds of power weather the cost

…of statues that were words absurdly

…made of dreams that were

…written of power and lost

The Reanimation of Love

For years we meandered to jaded drums

Lives transfixed on the repeatable bursting boulevards

In dreams we cradled love’s aching call

Its siren song- we marched to diminishing redoubtable chords

Of transcendence though not yet come.

Our hearts turn to a hall of looking glass resplendent

As radiance shines on the Temeraire, the sea unfolds its symmetry

A lunar pool speaks to itself as if in rhyme

Seeking only reconciliation of our years; our exquisite exile

We cling to that which is here.

What guides our name for the unnameable?

Brings us drink from the fluent and fickle stream?

Why cross oceans of time to be the abecedarian?

Our experience abates – recedes from its puissant perch

And brings a beginning to the quietus

So as the snow feathers its way like silent incandescence

A shimmering scape wraps round our open hearts

We walk as slow as the tranquil haze…….we whisper only in thought

Our soft eyes ahead – we share…we adore future fire

And dare we not to wake.

The Binary Dilemma

I seek electric history

I seek that which will be gone

I wander in the recent past

Digital brings a coming yawn

Algorithms bold and wide

Computing not yet come of age

Social is the watchword now

10 ways to stop a turning page

The fabric of the data mined

The limits of the insights reached

I say now I will be free

When paradigms let us rest in peace

Say it with me:

Adobe agile alan turing alonzo church apple class of service claude shannon clickstream cloud computing david deutsch dos html hypertext IPv6 javascript john von neumann kurt godel linux mashup multiplexing nanoprocessors open source oracle parallel processing pixie dust protocols quantum computing seymour cray scrum SNA spectrum tim berners-lee unix vax vector graphics virtual memory virtual private networks vtam xml william paley

Time will move away from them

When new work comes and says…..ahem

A Brief Look – New Years Eve

A Brief Look – New Years Eve

Meandering through a maze of mirror

We look back through time and space

To a bending world that sees its champagne day

And brings us the requisite resting place

The Gregorian sand moves inexorably fast

Its relative pages juxtaposed

Eyes straight ahead show the resolve of hope

And like a scene we bring it to a close