Saturday, February 20, 2010

postal scrotum: John McCrarey on Ann Althouse on Tiger Woods

John McCrarey writes:

Kevin, thought you might find Althouse's thoughts on Tiger Woods' presser yesterday of interest. She [questions] why Tiger is substituting therapy for his religious faith.

Althouse on Tiger

Hope you are well. Gotta say that I love Skyline Drive although not sure I'd be up for camping in February. Good luck to you.


Thanks, John. Alas, the drive is totally closed along its entire length, so to access it, I'd have to walk in from the Appalachian Trail at a point outside the drive. Once I've walked in a ways, the problem then becomes... what to do next? If I leave a car at the trailhead, I'll have to double back to reach it again, and I'd rather not walk the same length of trail in both directions (having someone drop me off at one point of the AP, then pick me up many miles hence, is possible, but defeats the purpose of being alone the whole trip). A loop trail would be nicer, in which case I'd prefer to go to a mountain and not the Appalachian Trail. As you know, Skyline Drive itself has some loop trails, most of which are short but some of which are quite long, but again we run into the problem of the park being closed. I'd have to start hiking from outside the drive, hike all the way to whichever loop trail I've chosen, do the loop, then essentially backtrack again. Not fun.

This is all moot, though. I've narrowed my head-clearing sites down to a couple choice spots in Virginia, after which I'll be going off the grid on Monday, for about a week.

re: Althouse/Tiger/Buddhism

Just read through Althouse's post. Interesting stuff. I'm guessing the most obvious answer to her question-- "Why therapy and not Buddhism?"-- is that a lot of Americans go into therapy. It's a fairly common, accepted life-choice these days, so perhaps it seemed like the natural thing for Tiger to do.

There's a definite overlap between religion and therapy, because therapy does involve the creation and maintenance of something like, for lack of a better term, an "internal worldview." Along with the internal, religion often brings an "external" worldview to the table-- insights about the fundamental nature of all reality, the origins of the cosmos and humanity's place/role within that cosmos, etc.-- but psychotherapy deals almost exclusively with mind-related issues-- inner reality. Being a soft science, psychology doesn't seem to mind drifting into religious language when it's in therapeutic mode (we're talking "-iatry," not "-ology"). Buddhism, too, has often been referred to as a type of therapy, and many Buddhists will say that, just as you don't have one single medicine in your medicine cabinet (because different ailments require different treatments), we each need different methods for dealing with different personal problems. This ties into the Buddhist notion of upaya, or "expedient means." You go with what works.

So in Tiger's case, we could say, cynically, that he's following the well-trodden path of many an American celebrity, turning to therapy as a sign of public penance, to garner sympathy, keep the public off his back, and regain some of his sponsors. Less cynically, and in a more Buddhist vein, we might say that Tiger has chosen the route that seems best for him right now. Maybe a more overt religious/spiritual practice will come later. Who knows? Tiger's mother is Thai, if I'm not mistaken, and Thailand is perhaps the biggest bastion of Theravada Buddhism, which is all about salvation through self-effort by following the "arhatic" ideal, sort of an imitatio Buddhi. If we charitably assume that Tiger has truly owned up to his responsibility for his marital woes, then perhaps we can further assume that he'll try to "work out his salvation with diligence" (supposedly the Buddha's final words) at a later date. Maybe he needs the hand-holding of psychotherapy first, after which he can toddle back to the temple and begin the real work of self-salvation.

I like Althouse because she holds liberals' feet to the fire (and isn't she either a liberal herself, or a "reformed" liberal?), but in this case it feels as if she's making a mountain out of a molehill. Tiger appears willing to accept all responsibility for everything that's happened, and in a very public manner (albeit after a shameful period of hesitancy and prodding from others); at the very least, we can say that that's a first step toward redemption. In point of fact, he might not be solely responsible for his mess; we know little to nothing about his wife's character and behavior. But the fact that Tiger has chosen to make himself somehow better and more marriage-worthy has to be cause for-- well, not exactly praise, per se, but at least grim satisfaction.

Of course, the ultimate test is time. Everything good and true and real shows its nature only through its ability to endure. Whether a marriage is weak or strong can only be determined over the course of years; a single glance at a couple can never provide enough data to know the reality. Whether Tiger will emerge a better man is something we won't know for a while (and, to be frank, I'm not sure how much I really care). By the same token, we'll eventually learn whether his current contrition is merely a sham. Actions speak louder than words. In the meantime, I'd say we should give the guy a chance. If he falls spectacularly off the path to redemption, then we'll shift into tough-love mode and pound his lame ass mercilessly.

UPDATE: With thanks to Skippy, we have the Onion's take on the matter.


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