On Friday, my wife and I listened to the words of the Tiger Woods as he faced the world for the first time since his disastrous behavior was reported to the world last Thanksgiving. I have followed Tiger for years as a golfer, and last August, my son and I walked alongside him and the foursome during a Skins game on the Atunyote Course at Turning Stone. He seemed so poised, classy, and skilled at his work, or play. I thus was quite disappointed at the news of his “fall,” a situation I had noted to my son last August which would greatly disappoint me. He not only represented golf at a new level but being a “global genetic” person, with a Thai mother and an African American/Native American/Chinese father, I felt he had raised the dignity of people of color to a new status in our country. Our country, founded so much upon the labor of slaves, has seen their descendants unable to play golf on many courses until after the 1960’s. So I was hurt and disappointed by his “fall.”
In Friday’s words to the press and media, I admired Tiger’s reference to his achieving world fame and riches, with a beautiful wife and children only to discover such was not enough. I was impressed by his reference a rediscovery of his Buddhist upbringing provided by his mother. He admitted forgetting one of those Noble truths, that attachment to things outside of our Inner Self, the Christ Mind as I often refer to it, leavesone empty and in constant pursuit of outside illusions. Of course, I wish him well. If he discovers a new maturity centered in a much deeper realization of a Higher Life, his post recovery fame may actually be greater than his earlier achievements and respect.
Of course, Tiger is not the first famous and rich athlete to have made numerous sexual transgressions. He is not the first to have an “sexual addiction” but in my memory, one of the few rich and famous to seek help for it in an effort to save his family and earn a deeper respect from his fans. Spouses of many professional athletic leagues have been informed and warned of how their famous husbands will have many sexual liaisons and how they should expect and live with it. Apparently Tiger’s spouse, Elin, was not prepared for such nonsense.
Professional athletes, of course, are also not the only group which struggles with sexuality. We all do. It has been among us for centuries. It is found among all professions and as we know, among our most spiritually respected teachers. In recent times it has been a well publicized trait in many of our “rich and famous” religious teachers. Sexual addiction, by today’s definitions, can also be found in ancient Bible figures such as David, his son Solomon, being reared with the common practice of their tradition for a man to take many wives, plus “concubines.” “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery,” as I was taught in seminary classes, was an prohibition aimed at men not to “steal” another woman “owned” by another man. Any others were “open game,” unless the women were outside their tribal group and then they all were “fair game.”
Sexual addiction is very prevalent in today’s societies. We see it often in our political leaders. Some, such as Hugh Hefner, have made a fortune marketing it. It affects many marriages and relationships. It is as addictive as gambling, alcohol, and work. It originates from a strong craving to escape the loneliness, misery, and hopelessness of this world. It is similar to anything used to erase and cover loneliness and boredom such as books, games, computers, travel, work, and religious practices. Yes, religion very easily becomes the “drug of choice” to help millions avoid their deepest loneliness and sense of isolation. Try to spend a few hours or days alone without books, electronics, movement, and other distractions and you’ll know what I mean. I’ve nearly gone “crazy” (crazier!) doing it.
As a person now retired from a religious career in a local parish, I faced the same issues, and even continue to monitor and evaluate my thinking and actions. Am I just avoiding the emptiness and misery of this life of body and flesh and mortality, or am I living with remembrance of my Higher Self? Again, religious professionals and teachers are not exempt and can easily live their lives of forms without content, of clouds without water. Religious leaders as pastors and priests enjoy a special kind of mystique and authority among the community. They can see themselves with power, prestige and the ability to control people. And they can and do often take advantage of this power to misuse their sexuality with people of the community and within their own parish boundaries.
Sexuality, however, can be a wonderful thirst to remind us of our greater desire of Oneness with the Divine. This is certainly not to say that sexuality can not be a very enjoyable and relaxing activity in this life. But as part of our bodies, it too wears out and decreases in interest and performance along with brains, eyes, ears, internal organs, bones and mobility. To focus on sex or any part of the body to keep us “alive” is inevitably a dead end. As the Bible writer Paul wrote, “We all groan earnestly desiring to be clothed with our house which is from heaven.” (2 Cor. 5:2)
As people, we obsess to hang on to our sexuality for as long as possible. It begins early. Years ago I attended a lecture by Dick Gregory at the Presbyterian Waynesburg College in which he chided college students for reading the latest sexual publications in order to run back to their beds and try out new techniques for greater satisfaction! Notice the lyrics in so many songs speaking of endless desire for sexual satisfaction and completeness. These aren’t aimed just for ol’ folks like myself, but the younger ones!
The church itself doesn’t have the best history of teaching a healthy sexuality. In the 4th Century, Augustine’s writing of his “Confessions” helped set the stage for consideration of sexual activity as evil and sinful. Possessed himself with sexual addiction, he broke it by emphasizing avoidance of such sinfulness. Centuries later, soon after celibacy was demanded for Roman Catholic priests, one of the great writer theologians Aquinas wrote of sexual activity as being from the “sewers of the body.” Such attitudes carried over into the Reformation period among most Protestants and especially among those calling themselves “Puritans.” Masturbation and any kind of fantasizing became sins and people struggled with great guilt over these normal bodily urges and desires. Such desires pushed into unspeakable silence and repression as sinful and naughty cannot but erupt in many in destructive and negative actions.
Yet, sexuality is a vital and central part of our body’s system. It can be used as a positive and loving action to convey mutual care, forgiveness and gentleness to another. It also is the craving within pointing to that which is eternal and blissful. One of my first teachers I met in India in 1987 urged me to direct my sexual energy and urges into my thirst for Spirit oneness and awareness, especially in mediations. It shocked me to hear him say so. A few months ago I heard Gary Renard, a current teacher of the Course in Miracles, tell a story about meeting some of the Dalai Lamas disciples in Boston. After a presentation, they were open for questions. One young lady rose to ask how they could submit to a life of celibacy without any sexual relations with another person. One of the oldest monks answered, “Well, when you are coming all the time it really doesn’t matter!” Yes, times of spiritual awareness and experience of one’s Eternal Oneness in life and meditation can give one, as I have experienced, the euphoric sense of Divine Oneness. It is orgasmic!
So good luck to Tiger Woods and all those who admit their addiction to sexuality. He and others certainly have my forgiveness and best wishes for success. I look toward them to be teachers for many others who need similar help. May they all succeed and discover the deeper Presence of Eternal Bliss within, that will long outlast the body and all its functions. And may we, still in these bodies, practice physical sexuality with joy and pleasure, free from guilt and fear, without become obsessed that this is the central function of our living. May we practice sexuality with deep respect for the other, treating one another with respect, dignity, and with the realization that both are much more than their physical sexuality, but as Eternal, Orgasmic Parts of God’s eternal family.