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Is It Still Golf? : Sacred Ruminations and Profane Observations on Technology and Life

10 May 2016 Magazine


Is It Still Golf? : Sacred Ruminations and Profane Observations on Technology and Life

Does technology change the sport of Golf into something altogether different?

By Dan Camilli, The Cosmic Duffer ™, Host of Nature, Sport and the Spirit 

         “Men have become tools of their tools.”   ~ Henry David Thoreau

One of my golf partners recently purchased a spanking new state-of-the-art range finder with all kinds of bells and whistles. This latest, greatest gadget features a built-in vibrating signal to let you know that the laser has accurately located the pin. It also cuts and tends your cigar and holds your beer while you putt. Only kidding about that last part. However, cigar cutting, beer tending electro-gizmos may well be the next big “innovation” in golf technology.

Being a Luddite by nature, I often become frustrated when a goodly portion of a playing partner’s pre-shot routine involves getting the distances via some techno contraption. I vividly recall the state of panic in my group when, one time, the precious range finder battery had not been charged thus meaning we would all need to use (gasp!) our eyes to determine distances! You know, like the way the game had been played for untold generations spanning back to those bored Scottish shepherds thwacking a stone with their staffs to see who could hit the target with the least strokes? Yeah, like that.

Every duffer’s golf bag is now packed with new whiz-bang technological advances designed to make the game easier and more fun. Even I delight in hitting titanium faced drivers and hybrids built with low kick-point (sigh! Senior Flex) graphite shafts and playing multi-layered high performance golf balls.

But I wonder at times; is there a point at which technology changes the game so much that it is no longer golf but something else? When is too much of a “good thing” simply too much?  When is golf no longer golf?

Have we become so inundated by technology that even those activities designed to distract us from these techno-distractions have been infected?  Golf is an exquisitely simple game: you, the ball, the club and the hole. Now it seems increasingly like some Xbox App. And if this “Technology Idolatry” has infiltrated golf, what of other, more consequential aspects of life?

Technology has, for example, most certainly affected human communication and not always for the better. I witness this daily on campus where I dodge oblivious students walking along with heads bowed to the altar of their cellphone screens. Alas, it’s far more likely that you will encounter a student seemingly talking to himself on a headset phone than actually engaging in a conversation with the person next to him.

Indeed, technology has had a very troubling impact on virtually all forms of human communication but most notably upon writing. Writing is, and always has been, the language of thought. It is the process by which we clarify and refine our ideas and present them to ourselves and each other.

Of course, much of this drastic transformation in writing has been largely overlooked by our culture which tends to view virtually all technological innovation as a form of “progress” while rarely pausing long enough to consider any possible unintended consequences. For example, many who do not teach and thus are less likely to know, are astounded to learn that today’s keyboard- raised generation cannot write nor often read cursive handwriting. Fortunately for them, or perhaps because of them, the “Selfie” appears to be replacing the autograph.

Our consumer culture encourages us to welcome all new technology with open arms and closed minds without pondering its’ full impact as we camp out overnight in line to purchase the latest tablet at the big box store. We are extolled to become lords of technology but to paraphrase Montaigne, “if we knew the weight of the scepter, we would not deign pick it up if we found it on the ground.”

So if writing is, indeed the language of thought, what does today’s “Techno Speak” say about the quality and depth of our thinking?  Has addictive posting on Face Book, Zuckerberg’s 24/7 narcissism machine, made us as shallow as a bird bath? Are we, as a culture, being collectively dumbed down by technology? Consider that we are witnessing a generation possessing a tool that provides access to virtually all  information ever collected by the human race yet spends most of its’ time using that technology to text friends and watch cute kitten videos.

Alas, perhaps the greatest casualty of technology’s relentless invasion into our lives is the loss of time for and appreciation of the aesthetic. Experiencing the joy and wonder of being immersed, indeed filled, by nature and nourished by our encounters with beauty and truth – the two values which the Ancient Greeks claimed were the very reasons to live.

Canadian communication theorist Marshall McLuhan prophetically observed that “The medium is the message.” Which means the manner by which a message is produced (medium) literally transforms or shapes the quality and content of the message itself. What’s more, the medium influences the way the message is delivered, received and processed. Today’s techno- speak leaves little room for examining the complexities of life. How is this new technology impacting our expression of the subtleties and nuances of our communication and thinking? What can be effectively expressed by a handful of emoticons in a 140 character message? When is writing no longer an expression of complex thought? When is golf no longer golf?

We would be well served to consider the long-term impact of technology on all aspects of our culture. For there are, indeed times when certain technologies are not so “GR8 4 U”.

Copyright © 2016 by Dan Camilli All Rights Reserved

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Award winning philosophy teacher Dan Camilli, The Cosmic Duffer ™ ” is the host of “Nature, Sport and the Spirit ” on natureschannel.fm radio airing Live Fridays at 10 AM ET and author of “Tee Ceremony: A Cosmic Duffer’s ™ Companion to the Ancient Game of Golf ” available at Amazon.  Visit blog at cosmicduffer.com

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