To be a person in the full sense you have to learn to be an agent with a sense of yourself as agent, capable of making plans, holding values, and exercising choice. ~ Charles Taylor, 1975
How could Tiger Woods, once the idol of billions, appear to be so wholesome and yet live a secret life of shame and promiscuity? Was the icon we had all known and loved a man or a mirage?
Professional golfer Tiger Woods was one of the greatest American sports heroes in history. He stepped into our consciousness as a two-year old on the Mike Douglas Show hitting a golf ball under the careful tutelage of his father, Carl. He dominated the high school and college golf world, and upon turning pro, won seventy-one Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA) tournaments, including fourteen major golf championships. He has earned almost a billion dollars in prize money and endorsements.
Tiger’s success piqued interest both within and outside of the world of golf, and even people who weren’t sports fans took notice of this extremely talented athlete. He was named the Associated Press Athlete of the Year and Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. He hobnobbed with Oprah Winfrey, Roger Federer, and Michael Jordan. He addressed the nation at “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in April 2009. He established numerous youth charity projects, including the Start Something character development program, the Tiger Woods Foundation, In the City golf clinics and festivals, and the Tiger Woods Learning Center. With his polyglot ancestry and globetrotting golf schedule, he was a role model to billions and the most recognizable sports celebrity in the world. In 2004, Tiger wed the Swedish beauty Elin Nordegren, and several years later gave birth to two children (a girl in 2007 and a boy in 2009). Tiger had love, family, success, fame, and fortune. What more could a man desire?
The fairy tale life of Tiger would come crashing down Thanksgiving night [in] 2009. (Bruns and Richards, p. 4-5, 2011)
In the 2012 book, The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods, author and golf coach Hank Haney tells of Tiger playing in the final round of the 2010 Masters at Augusta and struggling during play:
He is a genus in the most exacting sport there is physically, technically, mentally, emotionally. Nicklaus might have the greatest overall record, but no one has ever played golf as well as Tiger Woods, and no one has ever been better than his competition by a wider margin. He is the greatest.
But life is about loss. With the old part of my mind that keeps any sadness momentarily walled off, I make the call. He’s become less of a golfer, and he’s never going to be the same again (p. 32-33).
These statements by Hank Haney eventually led me to make two observations; 1) excluded here from the strengths ascribed to Tiger is that of Spiritual Intelligence (SQ); and 2) Haney has prognosticated what the future will be like for Tiger with an almost seeming finality. I think it much fairer to say, that Tiger must a) clarify for himself where he may have failed to give proper attention or priority, b) identify what if anything he may have forgotten along the way while also, c) carefully exploring other possible options, choosing solutions, and then developing an action plan for changing himself going forward.
For Haney, “The things that make the difference in whether a young player progresses are intangibles: toughness, work ethic, self-confidence, desire, a sense of how to score, and most of all true passion for the game.” While these qualities certainly do have value, let there be no doubt, awareness, acceptance, love, forgiveness, humility, compassion and wisdom can do far more to activate the emergence of a “higher self” while providing more inner value along with the added benefit of improving the overall world that we live in.
According to author Craig Calhoun (1991),
Hypergoods enable us to constitute frameworks of strong evaluations;” discriminations of right or wrong, better or worse, higher or lower, which are not rendered valid by our own desires, inclinations, or choices, but rather stand independent of these and offer standards by which they can be judged" (p.4). “Thus to act within a moral framework is to act with a “sense” of qualitative distinctions in which some basic evaluative commitments orient the rest of one’s views and choices. Such frameworks are necessary and unavoidable; they orient us, in positive terms, and they give horizons and shape to our lives by offering implicit limits that would be tantamount to stepping outside what we would recognize as integral, that is, undamaged human personhood (p.27).
We know who we are only by knowing [precisely] where we stand.
Haney goes on to point out, that Tiger is very mission driven as “the son of an African American father who was a career soldier and an Asian mother who was a devout Buddhist, both of whom poured all they had into their only child together." Nevertheless, Tiger’s relationships with others were sadly shown not to be genuine, open, reliable, or characterized by honesty, respect, and trust.
Tiger has since publically expressed an acknowledgement of mistakes and the need to place a renewed focus on maintaining his Buddhist practices. Application of the same does require a willingness on his part to willingly accept more guidance, mentoring and modeling through practice. In the absence of such a strategy, Tiger will no doubt remain at risk of not exercising both clear and consistent self-restraint over his past negative emotions, behavior, and temptations.
Life is suffering, teaches the Buddha. The self is a transitory thing. Material comforts and selfish impulses have no value.” The eradication of cravings," as the Perennial Dictionary of World Religions put it can be achieved through following what in Buddhism is known as the eightfold path: “Moral Conduct (right speech, right action, right livelihood); mental discipline (right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration). The eightfold path, like the Ten Commandments, is as useful a guide for living a moral life as any on earth. Along that path, Tiger clearly has a lot of renouncing to do (Miller, 2010).
Moral frameworks vary along three basic axes: respect for and obligation to others, understanding of what makes a full life, and notions of dignity. Other important questions that must also be addressed are; 1) What has Tiger learned from his mistakes? and 2) How has Tiger’s personal failures altered his values, worldview and approach to building and investing in honest, respectful and trusted relationships going forward? and 3) Can Tiger make the shift, to put it in negative terms, from a basic fear of condemnation to a basic fear of meaninglessness (Calhoun, p. 234)?
One’s spirituality is the essence of who, he or she is. It defines, the inner self, separate from the body, but including the physical and intellectual self…. Spirituality also is the quality of being spiritual, of recognizing the intangible, life-affirming force in self and all human beings. It is a state of intimate relationship with the inner self of higher values and morality. It is a recognition of the truth of the inner nature of people (Fairholm, 1997).
This “essence” becomes known when spiritual persons practice their faith and spirituality principles and use the trials that they encounter on their individual path as a way of growing and becoming a better person. "It is a very private and personal approach, but one that provides a great deal of meaning, "commitment, and creativity to those who work with this perspective (Neal, 2012). What lies at the root of Tiger’s sexual appetite, treatment, and view of women in general? This too must change.
In the end, this whole matter is clearly about what Tiger chooses to do with all that he has been given. The most that we can do as onlookers is to remain hopeful that going forward Tiger’s performance in all areas of his life will reflect the transcendence that we know is possible as part of one’s personal and spiritual journey toward purity and unity of thought, word, and deed.
“Wisdom is one thing that Buddhism teaches people to develop, and the Buddha said to the monks, “Behold monks, wisdom is a prime human gift. To develop life we have to develop wisdom”. If we have a child mind, we have to develop it to grow with knowledge or wisdom; otherwise it will be led by ignorance. Wisdom can save us from all dangers. We will see that if we are not wise enough concerning the things which we experience, we get into trouble. If we are wise, whatever happens, it will be okay. We just solve any problem, as there is always a way out, as is illustrated by this story of the elephant, tiger and human being; it goes as follows;
In the jungle, there lived a furious tiger; he was very proud of himself because he was never defeated. One day he went hunting for food and saw the elephant. He thought, “I am going to eat this elephant”, and he went straight to the elephant. The elephant knew that danger was near, but it was too late to escape, so he calmed down and prepared for the danger. When the tiger approached him, he said, “Hi, tiger where are you going?” The tiger said directly, “I am coming to eat you”. The elephant thought for a while and replied, “Hold on a second, friend, you cannot eat me. Don’t you know I belong to a human being, I am a slave to him”. The tiger said, “I don’t believe you. You are so much bigger than the human. Who dares to do that, in this area, except myself”. “Friend, you would not believe it, friends of mine were chained and forced to work. You have to believe me”, the elephant insisted. The tiger wondered why the humans were so powerful, even though they had no sabre tooth, no claws, only two hands and two legs, so he questioned the elephant more, “What really does make humans so powerful?”The moral of this story is: don’t despise others and think that no one can beat us, don’t live a careless life. Let’s all show our care and concern by keeping Tiger Woods in common prayer for an ever increasing “wisdom”. Hopefully, less like that of the fool tiger in the story above.
The elephant said, “Yes, right, they don’t have sabre teeth and claws, but they have wisdom”. When the tiger heard of wisdom, which he had never known before, he asked the elephant, furiously, “What does the wisdom of the human look like? If I see wisdom, I will eat it”. The elephant tried to explain that the wisdom was in the human, but the tiger still had no idea. So the elephant said, “You have to go and see for yourself, so that you can understand”. The tiger commanded the elephant to find some human for him. The elephant could not deny him, so they went together. At a certain point, they saw a man walking in the forest with a trap. The tiger said to the elephant, “I am going to eat him”, and then started to attack him, but because of his doubt, he halted and thought, “Why is it so easy to catch him. It is totally different from what the elephant said”. Then he asked the man, “Where is your wisdom?”
When the man heard that, he said, “Hold on Tiger, don’t eat me, I’ll show you my wisdom”. The tiger released him and asked, “Where is it, show me, before you are eaten by me”. “Okay, I am going to show you, but, you know, my wisdom is very frightening to all the animals. I am not sure that when I show you, you will dare to stay to see it or not”. The tiger said with pride that he had never been frightened or defeated, “What can I do so that I can see your wisdom?” The man offered a suggestion, “It is easy. You just let me tie you to the tree and then I’ll show you”. “That is fine, let’s do it then and show me”, the tiger said. And then the man tied the tiger to the tree, firmly, and grabbed the whip and hit the tiger, saying, “This is my wisdom, fool tiger”. The tiger cried, and tried to escape, but he could not. He was hit and his body was striped in the places where the whip hit him (it is a belief, until now, that this is why a tiger is striped). At the same time, the elephant witnessed all the event that had happened, so he laughed at the tiger who was proud of himself and despised the others. Because of human wisdom, he not only survived, but also the man did. He laughed so much that his eyes became very small (this is why the elephant has such small eyes, until now.) When the tiger escaped from the tree, he went for help. But no animals helped him, because he had once bullied them, or killed their friends, or a member of their family. Soon he could not stand the pain, and died. (http://www.buddhapadipa.org/dhamma-corner/wisdom/)