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(Eastern) Religion Is the Last Refuge

Tiger’s Wood’s apology kabuki included the now de rigueur appeal to religious values — but not to the Christian ones Americans usually hear.

Tiger Woods just returned from nearly three months of radio silence and read a 15-minute statement that was carried live by all the major television networks. This in itself is astounding. Woods is not, after all, a publicly elected figure.

In turn, he apologized for his actions, got angry at the paparazzi for hounding his family, said he was in therapy, made clear that there has never been domestic violence in and around the Woods mansion, and intoned, to the chagrin of the PGA, that his return to golf may be later rather than sooner.

It was, all in all, a solid piece of American public theater. There were tears, an elevation into anger, remorse, a request for forgiveness. At its best, theater produces moments of genuine emotion on the part of the actor and the audience. And that was present here. But it was, in the end, presented within the frame of the theater.

But the thing that struck me the most about the statement was the arrival of Buddhism. Woods said that he had grown up as a Buddhist, but in recent years, had strayed from his religion. He had forgotten the Buddhist lesson, and I’m paraphrasing here, that seeking pleasure outside the self can lead to bad accidents in the middle of the night.

In the recent history of the televised public apology, by politicians and sports figures alike, it is not uncommon for God, Jesus, or one’s pastor to make an appearance. It is a sign that the one apologizing is giving himself up to the dictates of a stronger moral code. But this seems to be the first time that the Buddha has made an appearance in a public mea culpa. It was nice to see that Jesus is not the only one helping people back from bad behavior.

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