An Updikean Addendum
I’d like to follow up an earlier post on happiness by looking at a portion of John Updike’s Golf Dreams. In this compilation is an excerpt from his novel Rabbit, Run. In it, the main character Rabbit is playing a round of golf with Episcopalian minister Jack Eccles. Eccles pesters Rabbit as to why Rabbit has recently left his wife. In the midst of this tension-filled scene Rabbit declares defiantly, “I told ja. There was this thing that wasn’t there.” Unsatisfied, Eccles interrogates his playing partner about this thing. What follows is worth quoting at length:
[Rabbit’s] heart is hushed, held in mid-beat, by anger. He doesn’t care about anything except getting out of this tangle. He wants it to rain. In avoiding looking at Eccles he looks at the ball, which sits high on the tee and already seems free of the ground. Very simply he brings the clubhead around his shoulder into it. The sound has a hollowness, a singleness he hasn’t heard before. His arms force his head up and his ball is hung way out, lunarly pale against the beautiful black blue of storm clouds. . . . It recedes along a line straight as a ruler-edge. Stricken; sphere, star, speck. It hesitates, and Rabbit thinks it will die, be he’s fooled, for the ball makes its hesitation the ground of a final leap: with a kind of visible sob takes a last bite of space before vanishing in a falling. “That’s it!” he cries and, turning to Eccles with a grin of aggrandizement, repeats, “That’s it.”
Here I think can be seen a certain satisfaction in having done well. A particular contemplative contentment. The moment is full, more than the sum of its parts. Therein can be found a harmonization and flowing freedom in realizing the sought-after goal. Which is to say, this all sounds rather Aristotelian. And perhaps this thing found in a purely hit tee shot is a condensed indication of a broader and richer phenomena.
Get Updike’s edited volume, Golf Dreams, it’s well worth it: