The night that I came home to find out that Kurt Cobain had died I remember thinking that the newscast was an outworking of the Biblical verse, “Meaningless, meaningless, all is meaningless.” Cobain seemed to prove that life after God was so pointless that suicide might be as good a way to deal with it as any. Last Friday as I sat in a Pittsburgh hotel room listening to Tiger Woods’ efforts to kick start his public recovery I couldn’t help being drawn to another verse, “What good is it for a man to gain the world and forfeit is soul.”
For over a decade I have winced at Woods’ lack of emotion and bland personality. As a pastor of people I couldn’t help but feel sorry for this young man who was programmed from a very young age to be a one dimensional success. It worked. Without doubt Tiger plays golf like no one else ever has. Yet, I always felt that he played a like a spoiled soulless robot and could never quite understand the public’s adoration. Tragically I seem to be proven correct that the cost of the tunnel vision that got Tiger to the top of his sport has him now languishing in an addiction clinic and going on Friday’s Press Conference failing miserably in an attempt to mature his humanity, perhaps thirty years too late.
There were two things that stood out for me in the Press Conference. Firstly, Woods spoke of believing that he was beyond the rules. When he betrayed his wife with what it seems might be a whole string of affairs he justified it to himself; the rules didn’t apply to him. This is the mark of someone who had been made to believe that he was above the rest of humanity and I guess when you are told from the age of two or three that you are special and gifted then perhaps you are conditioned to believe it. Again tragically, he was not gifted in the skills of humanity but in swinging a golf club. Perspective in what matters in life is lost and anything can and did happen.
The other thing was his strained efforts at telling us he needed to be different and a better person. Ah! At last, perhaps way too late, what matters. My fear for Woods is that these skills are easier learned when you are mixing with your peers at 7, 11 or 15 years of age. It is hard to believe that it will be easy to develop a fully rounded human being this late on in a life that can still to easily fall back on his billions of dollars rather than real hard worked for character.
Friday’s effort to meet his public failed miserably. One can only pray that Woods can somehow dig deep enough to see what really is success on this planet and restore his marriage and find the real trophies and satisfied feelings that humanity in its fullness has to offer. It is all a lesson to the world that follows the success story of Woods rather than the humbler more treacherous following of Jesus. Woods is a paradigm example in a world where money, fame and success are the sought after holy grail. Even as I visited schools with my daughter last year we were fully exposed to the sales pitch which promised to make our children great at sport or music or academia. Hunterhouse College, where my daughter finally decided to attend, stood out like a diamond in coal (or a little coal in a bag of diamonds might be a better image!) with its sales pitch of pastoral care, development of personality before exam results etc.
As the Woods story unfurls it will be an opportunity to remember what is important and what we as teachers, pastors, parents or whoever are attempting to develop. Again, the Bible comes to mind and you wonder if Woods has the spiritual insight to understand a little more clearly what Jesus meant when he called the poor and the meek the blessed!