I was talking to myself rather often “post-dog”—which I imagined meant that happiness was having its way with me.
“Maybe I’m developing a talent for contentment,” I thought. “How often do we have the chance to admit this in our lives?” I thought.
“As often as you like,” I said.
“Be joyful as often as possible,” I said.
Corky and I rode the subway to Coney Island. It was April and off season, but the famed Boardwalk was a grand place for a brisk walk. It was a blustery weekday in early spring and there were very few people about. We pounded down the wood planks fronting the ocean and I said things about well being softly, the way self-talkers tend to do. Corky had her head up, very high, to scent the Atlantic, and it was safe to imagine she was also thinking about delight.
Aristotle described happiness as “human flourishing” which he said involved activity and exhibiting virtue, and both should be in accord with reason. “Corky,” I said, remembering a day from childhood, “no one can be happy while walking the railing of a bridge…” “There was no reason in my youth,” I said. “And now you’re here and you are my virtue,” I said. I wasn’t sure what this meant. “A dog can’t be my full virtue,” I said. “She can only be the agent of my honor,” I said. “But it’s lovely, Corky, to be walking the boardwalk with you and the ghost of Aristotle,” I said.
A policeman approached and said, “Are you OK?” “He’s seen my lips moving,” I thought. “He probably thinks I’m lost,” I thought.
Could I tell him that happiness was having it’s way with me? Tell him about Aristotle’s sense of “Eudaimonia”—good spirit; a burgeoning; a man and his dog growing wings?
Could I say that after years I was seeing my life and the surroundings in which I found myself, finally, as objectively desirable? Would anyone on the street, much less a cop, know what I was feeling? I tried to imagine “joy-with-strangers-day” in New York. Something like the Reggae “Sun Splash” in Jamaica.
“I’m just happy,” I said to the policeman who was taken aback. “That’s a first for me,” he said. “I mean, no one ever says that, even at Coney Island!”
Had I been a self-talker throughout my life? I didn’t think so. In childhood development it’s called “private speech”—kids repeat the words they’re hearing, perhaps as a way to absorb them. “Maybe,” I thought, “I’m having the childhood I should have had.”