Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Legend of Bagger Vance

I don't watch many movies these days, which is why I am only now getting around to seeing "The Legend of Bagger Vance". I probably never would have seen it, except that when Craig Fox and I were discussing the Bhagavad Gita, he mentioned that Bagger Vance was loosely based on it.

I don't know if I would have picked up on the BG connection, although naming the Arjuna character "Junuh" might have tipped me off. I am not the kind of person to pick up all the fine similarities, so my coarse view of how BG comes out through Bagger Vance is this:

  • Junuh is a golfer who "lost his swing" and now needs to find it again. Vance (the Krisha character) tells him that everyone has their own swing that has always been with them, but they have forgotten it. I am pretty sure that the swing is supposed to be a metaphor for dharma.

  • It was his participation in World War I that caused Junuh to lose his swing, which I think refers to the opening of the Gita where Arjuna is in between two armies each made up of his extended family, and he does not want to fight - Krisha says that he is abandoning his dharma.

  • There's some stuff about focusing on the field and ignoring everything else that may refer to the path of yoga.

  • Towards the end, Junuh penalizes himself a stroke because he accidentally moved the ball while removing a twig. No one saw it, so he could have pretended it didn't happen. It is at this point that Vance leaves, having nothing more to teach Junuh. I think this is supposed to refer to a detachment from the results - that it is "playing the game" or "living out one's dharma" that is the important thing, not winning the game - in fact, there are several mentions of the game not being something you win.

  • I think my view of spiritual gifts and service to God has been influenced by the Gita. My understanding of spiritual gifts is that we all have different ones, and our purpose is to use them in service to God. Just as each person has their own dharma (vocation, maybe?), each person may have different gifts. We should not strive to mimic other's gifts, but use what we have been given. As George Fox wrote "And therefore all mind your gift, mind your measure; mind your calling and your work. Some speak to the conscience; some plough and break the clods; some weed out, and some sow; some wait, that fowls devour not the seed". I think we sometimes have a tendency to mistake our calling as something everyone should be doing (although there is also the problem of writing of something important, like business meeting, as being "someone else's calling").

    The detachment from the results is also very important. When we do something in order to get a reward, or recognition, we run the risk of feeling ourselves a failure if we don't get what we are expecting. It also means that we may ignore some small act in search of something with a bigger rewards. For example, if one acts faithfully in speaking out against war, the fact that the war continues does not mean that the speaking out was a failure. When one is moved to engage someone one-on-one about war and instead stands on a corner with a sign because it visible to more people, that could be considered being unfaithful to one's calling. Inviting someone to meeting isn't necessarily a failure just because the person doesn't come. That is a difficult thing to remember in our society.