Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Monkey Golf

One of my favorite stories is "Play the Ball Where the Monkey Drops It." This was first relayed to me by my eldest brother several years ago. A while back I came across it again HERE It goes like this:

"The story is told of a golf course in India. Apparently, once the English had colonized the country and established their businesses, they yearned for recreation and decided to build a golf course in Calcutta. Golf in Calcutta presented a unique obstacle. Monkeys would drop out of the trees, scurry across the course, and seize the golf balls. The monkeys would play with the balls, tossing them here and there.

At first, the golfers tried to control the monkeys. Their first strategy was to build high fences around the fairways and greens. This approach, which seemed initially to hold much promise, was abandoned when the golfers discovered that a fence is no challenge to an ambitious monkey. Next, the golfers tried luring the monkeys away from the course. But the monkeys found nothing as amusing as watching humans go wild whenever their little white balls were disturbed. In desperation, the British began trapping the monkeys. But for every monkey they carted off, another would appear.

Finally, the golfers gave in to reality and developed a rather novel ground rule: Play the ball where the monkey drops it. As you can imagine, playing this unique way could be maddening. A beautiful drive down the center of the fairway might be picked up by a monkey and then dropped in the rough. Or the opposite could happen. A hook or slice that had produced a miserable lie might be flung onto the fairway. It did not take long before the golfers realized that golf on this particular course was very similar to our experience of life. There are good breaks, and there are bad breaks. We cannot entirely control the outcome of the game. "

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I've heard it said that pain is merely the measuring stick between current reality and whatever it is we desire. The greater the distance, the greater the pain. But no matter how we wish things had turned out or what we hope or strive for, what IS, is. How I choose to respond to that is really the only true control I get.

I also need to remember that I only see a very narrow, finite slice of the universal picture. More than once in the past I've discovered after the fact that times when I did not get something I wanted badly, or when events unfolded that SEEMED to be just plain terrible, the lessons learned were ultimately very much in my best interest. There have been some unanswered prayers (or those answered with a "no" or "not yet") that clearly proved to be major blessings in the long run.

So I'm trying to remind myself to trust the universe to open the doors that will ultimately bless my life and keep tightly shut those doors that would open before me the wrong path. I'm practicing allowing myself to feel at peace with whatever happens rather that take on my usual control-freak M.O. of stewing and storming and giving myself all sorts of grief and frustration when things turn out differently than I had planned or hoped for. That doesn't mean I have ceased to care about the outcome. I haven't! It also does not mean I will stop trying my best to pursue particular paths.

Those golfers in India didn't just give up trying to play to their best advantage. They still sought out just the right kinds of clubs, took lessons to perfect their swing and did all they could to master their game. But in the final analysis, they learned to accept that no matter WHAT they could do to be the best golfers they knew how to be, in the end we all have to play the ball wherever the monkey happens to drop it. And that's ok.


Marie said...

This may be my favorite metaphor yet for the fickleness of fate. It's a lot less sad when you think of it as an innocently playful monkey getting a giggle out of the unexpected. Reminds me of G.K. Chesterton's take on God in The Man Who was Thursday.

Anna Maria Junus said...

What a great story.

And what a great saying. "Play the ball where the monkey drops it." You'll get some great looks when you say that to someone.