|ON BEING NOBLE|
Tom AbtsThis past week I saw the movie The Revenant and read the book To America With Love by A.A. Gill. This combination got me thinking about what it means to be noble and what that means in modern America.
Wikipedia has two definitions of noble. One is: belonging to a hereditary class of high social or political status - aristocracy. The other definition is: having or showing fine personal qualities or showing high moral principles and ideals.
These two definitions of the same word have caused great trouble. The first definition is a matter of birth. The second definition is a choice. Neither one is reliant on the other.
Immigrants came to America to get away from the rigid caste system of Europe - to get away from nobles. But, too often that became confused with a license to not act nobly or without honor.
In The Revenant, the Leonardo DiCaprio character is dying and some guys are supposed to hang back and look out for him. The setting is the American Wild West - probably Wyoming in the mid-1800s. You wonder why people would take such risks to live in such dangerous conditions - but that's how much they wanted to get away from the rigid caste system of Europe.
And yet ironically, the movie is about who has the character to act nobly in difficult situations. Acting nobly isn't about using the right fork - it's about doing the right thing.
I think manners are about doing the right thing - not about using the right fork. Manners are about showing respect and making other people comfortable. I find bad manners jolting. Unfortunately, many people view good manners as being phony.
Believe it or not, this is a golf column. Golf etiquette is about good manners and safety. Not something to be used as a weapon to make some people feel inferior - just the opposite. Can golf etiquette be taken too far? Of course - when it becomes petty instead of magnanimous.
Golf itself can mistakenly be viewed as a game only for nobles - in the aristocratic sense. But it's certainly not. As we all know, golf was originally a game of Scottish shepherds - not a game to "the manor born".
Golf is not a game of snobs. But golf is a game of honor, of acting nobly. The recent ruling by the USGA that the scores of rounds played alone cannot be entered for handicap purposes is a direct violation of the basic honor of golf. It's putting more emphasis on the handicap than on the honor of the golfer.
I don't like to see golf go that route and I don't like to see our society go that way either.
Though America is a land free of aristocratic nobles, it is a land that honors noble actions. So does golf.
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