Saturday, October 31, 2009

Playing the Back Nine

Some days there seems to be only one or two incidents that fuel the flame of awareness of something greater happening deep within us. Some days it takes a digital file full of ideas that come from a variety of sources to create one spark that will fuel a post for this blog. Just recently a couple of friends have lobbied to have their names mentioned in one of my blog entries.No matter how hard I tried to explain that I do not have a hierarchy of preferred companions to pray for and write about they continue to insist on having their names mentioned. I hate to tell them but I have been trying to follow a loosely defined plan and road map for this blog.Though it is quite obvious that sometimes there are people, situations and events that surface and influence some rethinking and editing of these entries.

Trying to select a single person or event to reflect on seem to form pages of ideas and events and choosing can become almost as difficult as a "Sophie's Choice" or as befuddling as selecting music or readings for my eventual potential memorial service(if folks aren't too busy.) So by the art and science of coin flipping and prayer for inspiration I have narrowed down the subject of this post to ...

Playing The Back Nine.

If, how and where we might worship God is really a private matter. I am a believer that God is in all things and God is everywhere all ways. Yes, I have experienced God on a golf course as well as in church or sailing on the bay or playing a catch with my girls. .But, if I am sure of anything about worship and prayer it is that The Loyola House of Retreats in Morristown , NJ is built on Holy Ground . It is a place that one must experience to understand the power of grace and peace that exists there. It is the place I go to worship.

At a recent mass at Loyola, Fr. Bill used a phrase in his homily,sermon, "playing the back nine" as he discussed the finishing out of one's life, the last phase of our existance so to speak. The more I have thought about this the more I want to write a book about all the images that this prospect conjures. As a less than average golfer and humbled meandering pilgrim , the vision of having the energy, focus , skill and temperament to complete what I have started has haunted me for the past few days.

The older I get and the more experience I have at "playing the game" one would think that perfection or at least a bogey free round is in sight. But a funny thing about age is that with the accumulated awareness comes with the knowledge that youthful strength - filled muscles are weaker and of course there is a slight decrease in visual capability.Not to mention my hearing or listening loss that annoys the heck out of my daughters.
( Recently I purchased a sporty looking convertible and my daughter Leigh suggested that I am have an "Old Life Crisis" as compared to a "mid-life" one.)
Then there is the fear of my losing my "authentic swing" and second guessing about how I played the game and can I continue to play. But as with this golf course of life I have been slow to learn how to pace myself and to enjoy the beauty of nature surrounding me and the companionship of good friends with whom I have met and "played" . Somewhere along the way I have tried to learn not to take mistakes, bad swings and missed putts seriously. But time has left some wear and tear and some days fatigue sets in quicker than I anticipated. "It's age" my doc says. Some days I am not sure if I have the strength to finish . Some days I am afraid that I have lost my authentic swing . Some days I will look back and second guess "how I played" the game. Some days and some rounds are better than others. But I am learning to be grateful for the opportunity to play "this game" and do what I can to finish the round with joy, integrity, truth and dignity.

I used to advise a good friend, George, that "Golf is Golf," as he seemed to act as if the act of playing this game was a measurement of his personal success and pleasure . He seemed to take the "game" so seriously. Little did he know that I also had to learn that same lesson. Of course there are aspects of this experience that we need to take seriously we love and serve God and others - are at the top of my list. But there is no doubt that I have had difficulty with adopting this principle and it seems appropriate that I had my first significant angina attack on a golf course over a year ago.A lesson I refuse to forget as it was the event that would lead to my bypass surgery and launch me into the new season of my second chance .

Last week another friend , Bernie , invited me again for one last round of golf before we "fall back." I know he was speaking about the changing of the clocks(getting dark earlier) and the anticipation of colder weather as markers of the end of another season of golf gone by.

I don't want to "fall back. " I want to move forward . I was reminded of the fictional character Bagger Vance who reminds the struggling talented young golfer Rannulph Junuh ...

"Inside each and every one of us is our one, true authentic swing. Something we was born with. Something that's ours and ours alone. Something that can't be learned... something that's got to be remembered..."
Bagger continues to advise Capt. Junuh

"...Put your eyes on Bobby Jones (the most prolific golfer ever)... Look at his practice swing, almost like he's searchin for something... Then he finds it... Watch how he settle hisself right into the middle of it, feel that focus... He got a lot of shots he could choose from... Duffs and tops and skulls, there's only ONE shot that's in perfect harmony with the Field... One shot that's his, authentic shot, and that shot is gonna choose him... There's a perfect shot out there tryin' to find each and every one of us... All we got to do is get ourselves out of its way, to let it choose us... Can't see that flag as some dragon you got to slay... You got to look with soft eyes... See the place where the tides and the seasons and the turnin' of the Earth, all come together... where everything that is, becomes one... You got to seek that place with your soul Junuh... Seek it with your hands don't think about it... Feel it... Your hands is wiser than your head ever gonna be... Now I can't take you there Junuh... Just hopes I can help you find a way... Just you... that ball... that flag... and all you are...

...Yeah the rhythm of the game just like the rhythm of life...

...Golf is a game that can't be won only played... "

The narrator Old Hardy Greaves summarizes for us -

"God is happiest, when his children are at play."

Then the character Old Hardy Greaves dies while playing his last hole and he goes home. Now there is another topic for another post.


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