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I know there have been several books written about the Zen of golf.  I admit that I have not read any of them. This is merely my humble take on the spiritual refractions in the practice of the game.  I have been watching a lot of golf lately.  The new season has just begun. And it is Masters Week. That means Spring is upon us!

One of my favorite things about golf is that it is usually set in very beautiful places. Though I may have to rethink that as I saw a documentary recently called, “You’ve Been Trumped,” about how Donald Trump raped an amazingly beautiful coastline in Scotland.  Ever see “Local Hero”?  That was the spot, but there was no hero in this story.  If Donald Trump was seriously running for president, this documentary would’ve sunk his campaign without hidden cameras.

But I digress.  The best golfers are the ones that have a solid stance and an easy swing. Legendary golfer Arnold Palmer said you need to swing your own swing.  I think that means it should be comfortable for you.

Comfort is the secret, I think.  You need to roll with the prevailing winds.  Weather is an important aspect of the game.  The way the wind is blowing can have a definite impact on the game.  Fighting against it does no good.

It is also, perhaps, largely about clearing your mind.  Very often the announcers will talk abut how a golfer, probably thinking about the mistakes he made on the last hole, stiffen up.  Sometimes they are anticipating a hole coming up. Or remembering their defeat the previous year.

There is a certain golfer.  I won’t offer names. He is a good looking man and a pretty good golfer.  But, alas, some of the reason for his success, besides his rather well-proportioned body, is the fact that he appears to have very little going on in his head.  That lack of actively-charged brain activity has helped him, I believe, to focus in on the present and move more easily.

As soon as you start to stress about something, your swing, the weather, the score . . . you tighten up.  I’ve watched golfers find themselves in the most difficult situations and come out well.  As long as they are able to get a decent stance and swing loosely, without limitations, they can get themselves back into play.  Without it, they continue to make mistakes.

The best way to play golf is with a quiet mind, focusing on the present moment, feeling the way the wind is blowing.  Finding a balanced a stance, checking out the lay of the land and deciding how you want to play it.  And then swinging loosely, your swing, easily, but with intention.  Good rules for life!

“When you finally give up striving, you will be left with what you have been striving for.” – Alan Cohen

The word “striving” makes me think of being tight.  Teeth gritted, fists in a ball, shoulders to ears, hunched up and ready to push.  Striving says to me there’s something I’m trying to move that isn’t moving.  It might though, on occasion, move a little. I lose my balance and fall.  But I’m striving, so I get right back up and keep going.

Merriam-Webster defines it like this: “to devote serious effort or energy.”  That’s not too bad, but serous effort and energy is no fun if it doesn’t deliver. The word strive derived from the word strife (to fight or quarrel).  M-W also offers a definition of strive as “to struggle in opposition.”  All the way around, not a pretty thing.

I find myself striving a lot.  I suspect there are others who do, too. We are a nation of strivers. (I wonder, does it affect our driving? Most likely, it does.)  We are all striving to get somewhere, on time, if we can.

Striving feels so righteous.  You are in there pushing and shoving, pulling and dragging.  You’re in the Game, doing what you should be doing, striving away, every day.

Striving certainly requires a tight grip and certainly that grip doesn’t allow much room for receiving, welcoming, or opening.  It doesn’t allow your best to shine through.

The second part of this quote is interesting. What you’re left with when you let go is what you were striving for all along.  Very Zen to get what you want by not doing.  But it’s true.  It’s hard to get what you want when you’re so tight and quarrelsome.  We are all too busy striving to even notice when we get there.

What the quote also says is that when you stop striving, you will get what you’re truly striving for.  The essence of what you want is always right there in front of you.  But it’s hard to see when you are squint-eyed in striving.  Grit and determination do not bring what you truly want.  It’s in the letting go.

Makes me think of the cookie jar.  If you try to hold on too tight, you can’t get your hand out.  The way to have what you want, what you’re “striving for” is not in trying harder as we have all been told a million times, but in fact, it is in trying easier.

I figure it’s time now, after the opening episode of Showtime’s fourth season of “Dexter” to talk about him.

I’ve come on this boat late. Over the last three weeks or so, we’ve watched the first three seasons of Dexter at a rather rapid pace. Perhaps it’s seeing it in this way, in this speeded-up version that has exposed all that I see.

Dexter Morgan is an all around good egg and a serial killer. His foster father, Harry, a cop, taught him how to channel his urges to kill. Harry developed a Code for Dexter so that he only kills people who deserve it.

Dexter lives by this Code and it helps him make all kinds of decisions about what is right and wrong. We should all have such a strong belief system. Thanks to Harry’s teachings Dexter is good with kids and a dutiful boyfriend to his somewhat damaged girlfriend. He’s also a team player and cheerful co-worker in his job as blood spatter expert at the Miami Metro Police Department.

The narration he gives of his internal dialog keeps us connected to him. We get a good view of how he thinks. With each exciting adventure and revelations, Dexter learns more about himself and about the Code Harry so painstakingly taught him. Since Harry is long-dead, Dexter must work with the Code, shaping it and molding it to fit himself and the situation at hand.

Rule No 1 is Don’t Get Caught. This forces Dexter to live very much in the present moment, being aware and careful. Sometimes I think there’s also a piece about going with your urges and living by your passions, but I’m not sure about that.

With all that exposure to blood and death, Dexter has an ability to remain detached. It’s a rare scene in which Dexter’s calm is disturbed. He retains an air of Zen about him.

The people in Dexter’s life, though more distant without an ear on their thoughts, seem to be changing as the seasons go on, softening and growing. The scripts use them to show how people are affected by the movements of the characters.

There’s a sense humor and lightness around all this killing. It’s not really as gory as you’d think. The cast is quirky and unusual. I get tired of cardboard, predictable characters. These have depth and with one guest star each season, he interactions of the cast are kept surprising and fresh.

Dexter himself, whether through the performance of Michael C. Hall or the writers, is a multi-dimensional character. Inside the head of a serial killer is a unique perspective, to say the least. Dexter is a truly new and intriguing character. Couple that with the wonderful ramping of tension, easing off and ramping up again, surprises around each corner of this engaging storytelling, it’s no wonder this is a popular series. Makes me want to read the books!

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