I left the golf tournament yesterday without setting foot on the course at Augusta.
What happened? Why did I leave? How did I make such a decision? Was it the right decision to make? The whole event made for a fascinating case study. And, since I cannot sleep right now, I thought I would write down my thoughts on the matter. Even if it is 4:00am.
There was some context to all of this. I had a desire to walk the course at Augusta. To see the best in the world compete at one of the majors. At least I thought I had. When I showed up at the course, my desire did not seem nearly as compelling. The reality of a bleak, storm drenched Augusta looked nothing like my expectation of a day at the Masters.
A little background first. My son and I made the trip down to Augusta together. We drove about 15 hours. We had booked a room at a somewhat seedy hotel located about 25 miles away from the golf course. There were literally no rooms available anywhere else.
We woke up very early on the morning of the opening round. The plan was for me to go to the Azalea Club by 7:00am, get to the course at 8:00am and then return to pick up my son at the hotel at 2:00pm. I only had one ticket so my son could not go with me. The seedy hotel was not prepared to let us stay any later than 2:00pm in the room as they were fully booked for the duration of the Masters tournament.
When I arrived at Augusta, I was a bit lost. I had no idea where the Azalea Club was situated. I turned into gate #3 at the course and I was confronted by a surly security guard. That experience did not set the day on a good footing. That discussion, coupled with a torrential downpour of rain, made for a bleak introduction to Augusta.
I was directed to the Azalea Club which was located across the street from the golf course. The Augusta event to which I had been invited was being managed by some third party company. I was a person without an identity as far as this event management company was concerned. A person in a queue. Here is your pass. If you leave the course, you have to return the ticket. Breakfast upstairs. Next.
At 8:00am, I left this club to make my way to the course. It was still pouring rain. I had an umbrella, however, the umbrella provided little real protection against the storm. The entrance gate was a block or so away from the Club. By the time I got there I was soaking wet. And, the gate was closed. “Rain delay until 9:00am.” a security guard muttered in my general direction.
I trudged back to the Azalea Club. From there, the news and the Internet kept reporting on intense thunderstorms for Augusta throughout the day. I sat on a chair, alone in a room full of people, all of whom were also sitting on chairs, and waited. With nothing to do. For hours. And time passed slowly: 8:30. 9:00. 9:30. 10:00. 10:30. 11:00. 11:30.
It is funny how long the passage of time seemed to take. I waited four and a half hours as torrential downpours hit the Augusta area. Power flickered on and off. Lightning and thunder persisted. The opening time for the course kept getting moved ahead. And, when I discovered that the course would not open until 1:30pm, I decided that there was someone more important to me than a golf game.
I could not leave him alone at that hotel.
I had, of course, done exactly that. And, I felt so badly when I left at 6:30 that morning, that it hurt inside. Silly, I know. He was fine. He was safe. But I really felt that I had abandoned him so that I could walk a golf course and enjoy the experience for myself. It suddenly seemed like a very selfish act.
And, what would happen if I did not make it back by 2:00pm? Would he be okay? Should I continue waiting at the Azalea Club and see if the gates would open? How long should I stay at the tournament before making my way back to the hotel? Would my son be okay just sitting in a lobby for several hours?
There is a parable about moral pyschology that has been attributed to Buridan. The parable is called Buridan’s Ass.
A paradox of medieval logic concerning the behaviour of an ass who is placed equidistantly from two piles of food of equal size and quality. Assuming that the behaviour of the ass is entirely rational, it has no reason to prefer one pile to the other and therefore cannot reach a decision over while pile to eat first, and so remains in its original position and starves.
In moral psychology, Buridan effects a compromise between two rival views of the relation between the will and the intellect: the intellectualist or naturalist tradition associated with Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, where the will is always subordinate to the intellect, and the voluntarist tradition of Augustine and Franciscan thinkers which holds that the will is sometimes capable of autonomous activity.
The idea is that the will is still able to defer its choice and do nothing if the goodness of one of the alternatives presented to it is unclear or uncertain. Of course, given our position in this life, it will almost always have this power because it is almost always possible in practice to doubt the goodness of a proposed course of action.
And so, like Buridan’s ass, I spent several hours debating whether I should stay and wait or go back to my son. During those hours, the storm was raging away. I felt stuck and I could not decide. However, indecision itself is a choice and not a very good one.
Whatever decisions we make, they will ultimately thrust us into life situations (both positive and negative). As the opportunities being gifted to us unfold in our lifes we grow our spirits. And in my humble opinion, spiritual growth was likely the grander plan in all of this anyhow.
I was faced with a choice to stay or to leave.
And so, I left.
I left the Masters without setting foot on Augusta. My heart told me that I needed to go back to my son.
I spent most of the day yesterday and last night second-guessing my situation. Should I have returned to the Azalea Club with my son? Perhaps they would have let him stayed there while I went to the course? Should I have booked another night in Augusta ahead of time? That way I would not be worried about his whereabouts. Was it silly to drive all this way to Augusta and not attend the tournament even though it was rain delayed by six or seven hours?
I shared some of what was on my heart with my son.
“Dad, it’s just a golf game and, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter.”
And, it struck me. I really did not care that much about tracking through the rain drenched mud at Augusta. Jammed with thirty or forty thousand patrons trying to catch a glimpse of a particular golf superstar.
I cared more about spending this time with my son. More than Augusta, more than the Masters.
So I made the decision to turn away from Augusta. And, I think I learned something very profound about myself in the process.
Life is a strange journey.