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“Happiness is a long walk with a putter.” –Greg Norman

“Happiness.” A word victimized by the banalities of greeting card companies, Pinterest, saccharine-sounding platitudes, and shallow cinematic treatment. And yet the word cannot be done away with. Nor should it.

But articulating its meaning, its essence, is a difficult task. Some would have it that the word “happiness” can be defined differently for each individual person. And of course the word allows for subjectivized colorings and shadings. But, if the word means whatever anyone wants it to mean, then it might as well be done away with, for it would have lost its communal meaning. A word without some sort of common, shared understanding is a solipsistic throw-away.

How to proceed, though? Even the philosophers can’t seem to agree. Gather Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill around the table and they’ll all give you something else at odds with the other two.

Drawing from the world of golf, though, we can look to Greg Norman’s well-worn quote: “Happiness is a long walk with a putter.” No matter what the hole, course, or handicap, I think every golfer can attest to the joy of sticking a long approach on the green, this joy attended by its own sort of relief and contentment. No need to worry about some chip, flop, or bunker shot. All you have to do is stride along putter in hand, gathering a deep breath and soaking in the scenery.

So what the Shark was saying isn’t much different than the Philosopher.

And I really do think there is something in Norman’s words that is illuminating of the nature and essence of happiness, understood in a certain way. For here is the acknowledgement of happiness as being elicited, and in no way separable from, the realization and achievement of some activity’s goal.

Further, the long walk entails a noticeable period of enjoyment of that goal’s realization, the ability to relish in having done well. Of course, a three putt could dash one’s subjective interior state, but this need not take away the joy of a well-executed approach.

And this does, in fact, call to mind one of the aforementioned philosophers—the one formerly known as the Philosopher—Aristotle.

Now, as Aristotle notes, there is a such-and-such and a good such-and-such. We call “good” the one that realizes the end or ends of a particular activity. For the archer, it’s hitting the target. For the ship-maker it’s the well-made ship. For the human being, says Aristotle, there is one end or goal beyond and behind all other human activity. And to spoil the long chain of questions one could entertain to arrive at this good, it is the satisfaction in having lived well. Having lived virtuously so as to flourish in one’s life. And this we can call happiness.

So what the Shark was saying isn’t much different than the Philosopher.

One comment on “Happiness, Putter in Hand

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